Posts Tagged ‘Tea Party’

the Tea Party and teachers’ unions …

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

are united in an ‘unholy alliance’.

[Michelle Rhee] says she is … fighting an “unholy alliance” of teaching unions and Tea Party Republicans. They are united in their dislike of America’s new “common curriculum”, which Rhee and others believe will raise standards. The Tea Party hates anything that smacks of a federal mandate even if it is not a Washington idea. And unions are generally suspicious of change.

Edward Luce, “Lunch with the FT: controversial schools reformer Michelle Rhee”, Financial Times, 5 October 2013.

This, I was not aware of. Politics makes for strange bedfellows!

Michelle Rhee (born 1969) was chancellor of the Washington, D.C. schools from 2007 to 2010. She was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan to South Korean immigrant parents and raised in Toledo, Ohio. As a teenager, her community service work with children included one summer on an American Indian reservation. Ms Rhee studied at Cornell University (BA in government) and Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government (MA in public policy). After graduating from Cornell in 1992, she taught for three years in an inner city school. Afterwards, she founded and ran The New Teacher Project, to recruit and train new teachers to work in urban schools. In late 2010, Ms Rhee set up her own non-profit group, Students First, which works on education reform issues such as ending teacher tenure and moving to performance-based pay, and is anathema to teachers’ unions.


Hayek and conservative economics

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

One Tea Party activist reported that his group’s goal is to fill Congress with Hayekians. This project is unlikely to go smoothly if the price of admission includes an extensive reading of Hayek’s writings. … [S]ome of Hayek’s ideas would not go down well at all with the American far right: among them is a willingness to entertain a national health care program, and even a state-provided basic income for the poor.

The source of confusion here is that there was a Good Hayek and a Bad Hayek. The Good Hayek was a serious scholar who was particularly interested in the role of knowledge in the economy (and in the rest of society). …. All economists know that a system of competitive markets is a remarkably efficient way to aggregate all that knowledge while preserving decentralization.

But the Good Hayek also knew that unrestricted laissez-faire is unworkable. It has serious defects: successful actors reach for monopoly power, and some of them succeed in grasping it; better-informed actors can exploit the relatively ignorant, creating an inefficiency in the process; the resulting distribution of income may be grossly unequal and widely perceived as intolerably unfair; industrial market economies have been vulnerable to excessively long episodes of unemployment and underutilized capacity, not accidentally but intrinsically; environmental damage is encouraged as a way of reducing private costs—the list is long. ….

The Bad Hayek emerged when he aimed to convert a wider public. …. The Road to Serfdom was a popular success but was not a good book. Leaving aside the irrelevant extremes, or even including them, it would be perverse to read the history, as of 1944 or as of now, as suggesting that the standard regulatory interventions in the economy have any inherent tendency to snowball into “serfdom.” The correlations often run the other way. Sixty-five years later, Hayek’s implicit prediction is a failure, rather like Marx’s forecast of the coming “immiserization of the working class.” ….

The Good Hayek was not happy with the reception of The Road to Serfdom. He had not meant to provide a manifesto for the far right.

Robert M. Solow, “Hayek, Friedman, and the Illusions of Conservative Economics“, The New Republic, 6 December 2012.

MIT economist Robert Solow (born 1924) won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1987 for his analysis of economic growth. This is the first part of a lengthy review of The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets since the Depression, by Johns Hopkins historian Angus Burgin (Harvard University Press, 2012).

The American far right would certainly not appreciate – were they to read it – Hayek’s essay “Why I am not a conservative“, published in The Constitution of Liberty (Chicago, 1960).

Obama and Congress

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Edward Luce, the FT Washington columnist, fears that the US will become ungovernable, unless President Obama manages to split Republicans “who grasp the gravity of their party’s direction” away from their colleagues in Congress.

Should the GOP [Republicans] remain united in opposition to Mr Obama (who has a broadly centrist approach to America’s economic challenges), the US will become cripplingly ungovernable. Look at California over the past generation. ….

Among the conservative Tea Party groups, Tuesday’s vote only confirmed that the US is heading rapidly in the wrong direction. In their account, Mr Obama’s Democrats have bribed enough of the undeserving poor with taxpayers’ money to fall into their camp. As it happens, most of them are non-white. Rush Limbaugh, the influential radio host, fretted last week that “we are outnumbered”.

Edward Luce, “Obama’s next task is to split the GOP“, Financial Times, 12 November 2012.

the tea party has lost the US election

Saturday, October 27th, 2012

This is a great column on US politics.

The right wing has lost the election of 2012.

The evidence for this is overwhelming, yet it is the year’s best-kept secret.

E.J. Dionne Jr., “How the right wing lost in 2012“, The Washington Post, 25 October 2012.

Read it! You will then understand that the right wing has lost this election, even if Mitt Romney wins.

science in US politics (not from The Onion)

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

It is widely-known that some members of the US House of Representatives, especially those in the Tea Party Caucus, are hostile to science. What is not so well-known is that some of them occupy positions on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Rep. Paul Broun, who serves on the House Science Committee, told a church-sponsored banquet in his home state of Georgia that the theories of evolution and the big bang are “lies straight from the pit of hell.”  … [T]he comments from the medical doctor who also has a degree in chemistry are getting lots of attention after the Bridge Project, a progressive political watchdog group, began distributing video of the remarks.

Broun says “all that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang theory” was part of a ploy to hide how old the Earth really is, “to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.” …. [He adds] “there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don’t believe that the earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.” ….

His comments were greeted with applause at the Sept. 27 Sportsman’s Banquet at Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell, Ga. Broun’s reelection is assured next month since he doesn’t even have a Democratic challenger.

Daniel Politi, “Republican Lawmaker Says Evolution Is a Lie ‘Straight From the Pit of Hell’“, Slate, 6 October 2012.

Paul Broun (born 1946) is a member of the Tea Party Caucus and has served in Congress since 2007. His Tea Party colleague on the House Science Committee, Rep. Todd Akin (born 1947), two months ago achieved notoriety with a remark that women rarely become pregnant from “legitimate rape” because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down”. Akin was first elected to the House of Representatives from Missouri’s 2nd district in 2001. He is now running for the Senate, and next month hopes to defeat incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill (Democrat, born 1953).

democracy in Tea Party America

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Berkeley economist Brad DeLong looks back with nostalgia at the young America Alexis de Tocqueville saw in 1835, when he published the first volume of his now-classic Democracy in America.

To the “sick” France of 1835, Tocqueville counterposed healthy America, where attachment to the idea that people should pursue their self-interest was no less strong, but was different. The difference, he thought, was that Americans understood that they could not flourish unless their neighbors prospered as well. ….

Tocqueville noted that “Americans are fond of explaining…[how] regard for themselves constantly prompts them to assist each other, and inclines them willingly to sacrifice a portion of their time and property to the general welfare.” The French, by contrast, faced a future in which “it is difficult to foresee to what pitch of stupid excesses their egotism may lead them,” and “into what disgrace and wretchedness they would plunge themselves, lest they should have to sacrifice something of their own well-being to the prosperity of their fellow-creatures.”

For Tocqueville, France’s sickness in 1835 stemmed from its Bourbon patrimony of a top-down, command-and-control government, whereas America’s health consisted in its bottom-up, grassroots-democratic government. ….

Republicans [have] gathered in Tampa … to say that the America that Tocqueville saw no longer exists: Americans no longer believe that the wealth of the rich rests on the prosperity of the rest.

J. Bradford DeLong, “Democracy in Tea Party America“, Project Syndicate, 30 August 2012.

Addendum (from Wikipedia). We should not forget that not all was well in de Tocqueville’s America of 1835, There were slaves in southern states, women were not full citizens, and non-whites could not become citizens.

When Tocqueville toured the United States from 1831 to 1832, the Naturalization Act of 1790, signed into law by George Washington, prohibited persons of color from becoming citizens. Only persons who were “white” of “good moral character” could become citizens, while freed blacks, Asians, and Native Americans were denied citizenship. The citizens mentioned in Tocqueville’s book Democracy in America were all of the white race.


fiscal conservatives and deficit spending

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

“Why”, asks MIT Sloan economist Simon Johnson, “do US fiscal conservatives care so little about government debt, relative to their counterparts in other countries?” His answer? In the US, unlike other countries, foreigners are eager to finance the government’s deficit spending.

In most countries, to be “fiscally conservative” means to worry a great deal about the budget deficit and debt levels – and to push these issues to the top of the policy agenda. ….

The United States is very different in this respect. There, leading politicians who choose to call themselves “fiscal conservatives” – such as Paul Ryan, … care more about cutting taxes, regardless of the effect on the federal deficit and total outstanding debt. Why do US fiscal conservatives care so little about government debt, relative to their counterparts in other countries? ….

[They ignore deficits because increased use of the US dollar around the world allows them.] Foreigners now hold roughly half of all US federal government debt, and they are willing to hold it when it yields a very low return in dollars (and even when the dollar depreciates). ….

And Americans have shifted greatly toward political philosophies – on the right and on the left – that regard public debt merely as a distraction. Or, as former vice president Dick Cheney put it, “Reagan taught us that deficits do not matter” ….

Ryan and members of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party undoubtedly want to cut the size of the federal government …. But, in the near term, what they promise is primarily tax cuts ….

For example, Ryan supported George W. Bush’s spending spree. He also supports maintaining defense spending at or near its current level ….

The assumption here – unstated and highly questionable – is that the US will be able to sell an unlimited amount of government debt at low interest rates for the foreseeable future. There is no other country in the world where fiscal conservatives would want to be associated with such a high-stakes gamble.

Simon Johnson, “America’s Exceptional Fiscal Conservatism“, Project Syndicate, 23 August 2012.

I would add that Paul Ryan’s famously ‘conservative’ budget plan contains massive tax cuts, but also deficits that would increase the size of the federal debt by 6 trillion dollars over the next decade.

Simon Johnson, a former chief economist of the IMF, is co-author, with James Kwak, of White House Burning: The Founding Fathers, Our National Debt, and Why It Matters to You (Pantheon, 2012).

the appeal of Atlas Shrugged

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Three Republican politicians are in the news, for publicly expressing their attraction to Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged. The three are Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan (Mitt Romney’s running mate), Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson (backed by the Tea Party), and Texas congressman Ron Paul (beloved by libertarians).

FT reader Jem Eskenazi does not understand their fascination with a work “of dubious literary merit”.

Yes, this overlong novel … harps on about how market economies work best, profit is OK, central planning does not work, the individual’s power is good; ideas that perhaps excited a 1950s’ Russian émigré but are surely self-evident for most of the contemporary industrialised world.

But it is also a story where superheroes let hundreds of thousands die and millions suffer while they retreat to some utopian paradise instead of dealing with the leeches in government in a proper democratic process; where one of the main characters, Dagny Taggart, lets her devoted and competent right-hand man, Eddie Willers, die a horrible death without helping him even though he is trying to save her railroad; where the same Dagny character jumps from relationship to relationship each time someone better comes along without a care for the previous guy (family values, anyone?) and there is not a single child in more than 1,000 pages; where American natives are dismissed as “savages”; and where politicians are by definition villains.

Is this the kind of world these Rand fans believe in?

Jem Eskenazi, “Inside the covers of ‘Atlas Shrugged’”, letter to the editor, Financial Times, 20 August 2012.

I have never read the novel. Perhaps I should, just for curiosity. But with so much good literature to read, I doubt that I will use my limited time in that way. I am currently reading Karl Popper’s 1974 autobiography Unended Quest (Taylor and Francis e-Library, 2005). This fascinating 300-page book can be downloaded free.

Atlas Shrugged, if you are interested, can also be downloaded free.

I cannot vouch for the legality of either download, but would not contribute a cent to an Ayn Rand trust fund.

Ayn Rand and the Tea Party

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

While lecturing others for most of her life on the meaning of morality, [Ayn] Rand had extramarital sex for more than a decade with a younger man who worked for her. His wife was among her inner circle of friends and Rand herself was married. A believer in acquiescence to selfish desires, Rand published a 1964 collection of essays with Nathaniel Branden titled The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism. Adding particular poignancy to the title, Branden was the young subordinate with whom she was sleeping.

Rand, and her supporters, including Alan Greenspan, viewed altruism as evil: altruism is evil, selfishness is good. ….

Ayn Rand built her Objectivist philosophy that permeates today’s Tea Party around individual self interest and eliminating government run social welfare programs, but she herself was on Medicare and Social Security.

Even after the attack at Pearl Harbor, Rand was against the U.S. entering World War II. She viewed government force as evil, but her own followers were regularly purged, shunned and vilified. She was an atheist, as are all true Objectivists, according to the grande dame of radical capitalism. ….

The widest gulf between Rand and her devoted Tea Partiers is on the issue of God. [Gary] Weiss says: “She hated religion, especially Christianity. But faith in God was the essence of life to a great many in the Tea Party. Tea Party literature sometimes read like hymnals, with copious references to the Almighty and Jesus. In his vest-pocket-sized The Tea Party Manifesto, author and conservative commentator Joseph Farah invokes the Deity on almost every one of its tiny pages.”

Pam Martens, “Ayn Rand: the Tea Party’s Miscast Matriarch“, CounterPunch, 27 February 2012.

Ms Martens is reviewing Gary Weiss’ book,  Ayn Rand Nation: The Hidden Struggle for America’s Soul (St. Martin’s Press, 2012). She is a veteran of Wall Street, where she worked for 21 years. blogs at and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press, forthcoming, April 2012).

Bill Ayers on the Tea Party

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

I’m writing this book right now called Pallin’ Around, and the subtitle is: “Talking to the Tea Party.” And frankly I find talking to the Tea Party exhilarating, I love it. ….

[T]he Tea Party, if you want to call them working class, you know, a working-class insurgency from below, they are a mass of contradictions; they don’t have a single consistent viewpoint; but part of their impulse is to be wary of government. I’m wary of government. Part of their impulse is to dislike and be worried about the rich. I’m that way too. So I don’t find them to be as atrocious as most people do, as your liberals do. I’m not a liberal. ….

There are things about classic liberalism that obviously I’m drawn to and I bet all of you are as well. Those are things like liberty, freedom, the Bill of Rights. But the reason that I reject the label is that I grew up cutting my teeth against the liberals. I wasn’t part of John Kennedy’s vision of the world, or Lyndon Johnson’s. I thought of them as anti-Communist imperial monsters. ….

Obama doesn’t disappoint me, because all during the campaign he said, I’m a pragmatic, middle-of-the-road, compromising politician. The Right said, He’s lying, he’s a socialist who pals around with terrorists, he’s a secret Muslim and blah blah blah. That was their line. The liberals all said, He’s winking at me, I can feel him winking in my direction. He wasn’t winking. He said exactly who he was and he’s lived that out perfectly.

So you can be disappointed but only if you thought he was something that he said he wasn’t! Every politician—FDR, Lyndon Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama—they’re all conservative by nature. ….

An Interview with Bill Ayers“, The Point 5 (Spring 2012)

Bill Ayers (born 1944) is a retired professor of education at the University of Illinois in Chicago. He is best known for his activism in the 1960s and 70s and for co-founding the Weather Underground, a revolutionary group that bombed public buildings to protest US involvement in Vietnam. Ayers has written a memoir of his activist years, Fugitive Days (Beacon Press, 2001; Penguin, 2003). During the 2008 US presidential campaign, Barack Obama was accused of “palling around with terrorists” because of his contacts with Professor Ayers in Chicago. Click on the link above to read more from the interview.

HT: The Browser