Photo by losinghandThis morning EJ Dionne makes the case that the Tea Party narrative on taxes and the government is now the national narrative. In the wake of significant levels of unemployment, rising levels of wealth inequality, and anxiety, the most important discussion out of Washington isn’t how to get people back to work, it isn’t how to use the force of government to rein in corporate malfeasance, it isn’t how to get us out of this deep depressive funk….but rather how to get the budget back on track. And of course he’s not that far off. Take a look at any Tea Party website and you’ll read arguments for cutting everything from veteran’s benefits to Head Start and even defense in some csaes. And as I noted last week, the discussion isn’t about whether cuts are necessary, it’s about which cuts are necessary.
But where he gets it wrong, painfully wrong, is that it isn’t the Tea Party driving the narrative. Although Tea Party supporters have pretty intense interests, although they may appear as if they’re a pretty energetic bunch, the ideas aren’t coming from the Tea Party. The ideas are coming from their funders. The Koch Brothers stand out, if only because they’ve gotten a great deal of attention over the last year or so–I’d never heard of them before this piece. But they aren’t alone. They are supported by a number of conservative think tanks, by the Chamber of Commerce, and by a wide number of political officials at local, county, state, and federal levels. And increasingly by judges and lawyers, who’ve been schooled by the Federalist Society. Furthermore although Tea Party members appear to be wealthier and more educated than their non-Tea Party counterparts, they aren’t wealthy enough to get the full material benefit of the policies they support.
What we’re looking at is a conspiracy hiding in plain sight. Using this language may get Dionne kicked out of the Washington social club…but this language is much more appropriate I think. Maybe the ideas we associate with the Tea Party is winning, but they aren’t.