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The Tea Party’s Achilles Heel

The fundamental flaw in Tea Party ideology is the false assumption that it is possible for individual members of a society to be free of control by its most powerful and influential leaders.

 

Since the beginning of time, the elite, however they are defined, have always determined a society’s rules for how incomes are made, how a group’s productivity is shared among its various classes, and who pays what to finance the group’s goals. It’s been true of theocracies, aristocracies, dictatorships, monarchies, republics, and, yes, even a Tea Party anarchy.

 

Voters only have one choice

Fortunately, our system of democracy, or republic if you prefer, allows the majority of society’s members to determine who the governing elite will be.  As much as people may not like “government,” the only real choice voters have isn’t who represents big government vs. small government—it’s who represents good vs. bad government. In whose interests will they be governing and what will be the results?

Today’s classic example is Iraq. If its democratically elected government is unwilling or unable to govern effectively, then competing militia groups seize control and govern according to their own powers and desires. A nation in chaos is still a governed society—it’s just governed by the wrong people, for the wrong purposes and with disastrous consequences.

Our own federal government’s role in protecting the environment is another example of how a society is always controlled by its most powerful members. If our elected political leaders choose not to set minimum standards for the disposal of toxic wastes—that’s an act of government that can hurt all society. In effect, they choose to turn control of the environment over to the private leaders of the corporate world—and the business elite will then make environmental decisions that will serve their own special interests. 

 

The historical record

The early history of child labor legislation also demonstrates the inevitability of government, and the fact that elites always determine society’s standards. When the federal government had no role in setting a minimum age for children working in factories, it empowered corporate executives to pit states against each other in attracting industry. States with the lowest minimum age automatically had a competitive edge over states with more humane standards.

One of the major keys to America’s economic success was the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The federal government established a national minimum wage of 29 cents per hour, time-and-a-half pay for over 40 hours a week, and prohibited children under 16 from working full-time, non-farm jobs. By setting these standards, it took some of the power away from corporate executives to blackmail states into setting lower standards, which then would lower the national norm.

Had the federal government not taken such action, it, in effect, would have given power to corporate executives to control (govern) those aspects of our society.

When critics cite terrible decisions of “big government,” they don’t prove the federal government is bad. They only prove that bad federal government is bad. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that NAFTA was a horrible mistake, and unregulated globalization has been a disaster for our country.

 

The answer: good, not small,  federal government

To reverse the damage big government did to our country when it passed NAFTA does not now require less big government. It requires a good big government to implement an effective industrial policy that will protect our industries and their jobs from unfair, low-wage competition. As a matter of historical fact, that’s exactly how the U.S. became the industrial leader of the world for most of the past century: the federal government imposed tariffs on imports from low-wage countries.

Like it or not, the fact is that all human groups are always governed all the time by their most powerful members—from your local church, the corporation, the labor union, the American Association of Atheists, or even your family business. Voters should realize that when a politician promises to “get government out of your life,” he actually is promising—not to govern in the public interest—but to turn the government of our economy and society over to the unelected, unregulated private or corporate elites.

Republicans want to turn government over to corporations and the unelected elites. Democrats would protect middle and low income Americans from their abuses of power.

 

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