No Tea For Me

The more I hear from GOP/Tea Party candidates for November’s midterm election the less I like. Being invited  to a Spending Revolt Bus Tour stop at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds by “Americans for Prosperity” last week didn’t improve my opinion.

Where was the revolt when a budget surplus in 1999 became a decade of record deficit spending? There was no bus tour when Congress cut taxes even as we  struggled to pay for two foreign wars. No bus rolled into town as we slipped into an economic coma marked by serial layoffs and home foreclosures.

The Tea people aren’t exactly models for social responsibility.

  • Christine O’Donnell can’t seem to accurately recall if she earned a degree from Oxford University. Or whether that organization she once led has or hasn’t paid taxes since 2006.
  • Several candidates still champion privatizing Social Security as a viable means of funding future retirements – despite the well-documented shriveling of 401K retirement accounts during the current Great Recession with no expected rebound.
  • Meg Whitman, who is running for California governor, promised to be “tough as nails” on illegal immigration while being accused of employing an illegal Mexican immigrant as her housekeeper for 9 years.
  • Rand Paul, Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Kentucky, has criticized the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and is opposed to the American Disabilities Act.
  • And let’s not forget the Tea Party schizophrenia over free trade. The rank-and-file seem to view it as a sell-out of American workers to cheap foreign labor. Meanwhile, their candidates champion the free market.

No matter how many times the Tea Party invokes God, small government, family values and the scourge of abortion, the politics of Tea is selfishly “All About ME and MINE.” Good national policy is, or should be, about all of us.

To quote English poet and preacher John Donne:

No man is an island entire of itself; every man

is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;

In society, we are connected whether liberal, conservative, moderate, left, right, center, red state or blue. Social responsibility is a Scriptural idea. “None of us lives to himself and no one dies to himself.” (Romans 14:7)

What Founding Father Alexander Hamilton wrote, speaking of commerce and agriculture in his day, bears remembering in a political climate that pits Americans one against the other. Our “interests are intimately blended and interwoven.” (Federalist No. 12)

Some would have us believe that our collective salvation lies in keeping government out of any economic recovery and letting the private sector do its job. (Sounds a lot like Herbert Hoover‘s approach to the Great Depression, doesn’t it?)

The illogic of this thinking became clear to me at a parent coffee the other day.  A school administrator reminded us of our common interest in supporting the success of struggling students even if our own children already were on the Dean’s List.  “We are only as strong as our most fragile population,”  he said.

The same can be said of our country.

Where would we be as a nation if President Johnson hadn’t signed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination in public places, provided for school integration and other public facilities, and made employment discrimination illegal. And what if there were no Social Security, no unemployment benefits, no safety nets?

Would a return to laissez faire government inspire a party – tea or not – that Jesus would attend?