Friday, April 09, 2010

Column for Consideration: No Stopping for the Middle Class on the TEA Party Express

[The following column was submitted to us by a research assistant for One Wisconsin Now. They are the author's own opinions and are published here for your review, consideration and comment. Eye on Oshkosh takes no position on the commentary either way.]

For one rainy day this week I followed the TEA Party Express hundreds of miles as it made its way through Wisconsin. I hoped to see firsthand the group's leadership offer real solutions to solve the woes of its financially-struggling followers.

Instead, I heard Wisconsinites being fed anger and resentment, which make for headlines but create neither jobs, nor hope.

The TEA Party Express is a faction of the conservative movement whose goal is media coverage through its cross-country bus caravan. The circus indeed came to town, as a gaggle of performers -- from right wing talk radio talkers to song-parody artisans, to Christian political activists, and the standard, fire-breathing TEA Party figureheads.

Like most of the acts on the tour, TEA Party chair Mark Williams took shots at the president, called Democrats socialists, and reminded the group about his new book available for sale. (Books are huge for TEA Party radio hosts, Glenn Beck raked in $12 million from book sales last year.)

But out in the field, TEA Party leaders like Williams still talk and walk on complicated ground as they try to fold into their flock middle-class Americans who have nothing to gain and everything to lose from the pro-big business agenda they seek to advance, much as the Republican Party has done for decades.

For example, I heard health reform called socialist too many times to count and that it needs to be repealed or defunded. What I didn't hear TEA Party leaders tell their crowd -- of which the majority looked to be seniors -- is if Medicare is socialism.

And while I heard TEA Party leaders rail against high taxes hurting Americans, I didn't hear them tell the crowd -- of which many are middle-class folks -- that their economic plan is to give tax breaks to the richest people in our state and to let corporations exploit our state resources like roads, bridges, and public education, all the while dodging the taxes that pay for these public services through setting up phony post office box headquarters in other states.

I heard TEA Party talkers complain about the bank bailouts, but nothing about the massive banking deregulation which helped cause the reckless behavior of Wall Street bankers and speculators that destroyed the housing market and cost so many Americans the roof over their heads.

I also heard a lot about voting out incumbents. "Every single one of them." But not if they're Republicans. In fact, while the TEA Party may have suffered a serious blow with the passing of health reform, they really have their sights set on November 2010 and beyond.

In the middle of the workday on April 15, Party leaders in Wisconsin are organizing a Tax Day TEA Party at our State Capitol in Madison. While I'm sure a good number of people will show up to listen to what TEA Party leaders have to say, the truth is most people will be at work or at home looking for the work they lost as a result of conservative economic policies that benefit big business and the wealthiest individuals.

It's for these people that my friends and I are organizing a mobile message board to send personal messages to the TEA Party on April 15. We are encouraging folks to go to our website and tell the TEA Party why America works.

The middle class didn't happen by accident. It was created because Americans made public investment a priority and because our laws protected working families. As long as the TEA Party is fueled by corporate profits and conservative intolerance, it will remain isolated and marginalized.

And it will be up the rest of us to protect the America we love.

Cody Oliphant is the Research Assistant for One Wisconsin Now ( a progressive advocacy organization whose vision is a Wisconsin with equal economic opportunity for all.

One Wisconsin Now is a new-media online network of citizens from across Wisconsin committed to advancing progressive policy, leadership, values and ensuring equal economic opportunity for all.


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