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In Praise of the Tea Party Movement

In Praise of the Tea Party Movement

Jay Ambrose
March 2, 2010


Like a hero rescuing a damsel tied up and lying on the railroad tracks as a train approaches, the tea party movement has been trying to save America from runaway leftism. But this hero, instead of being applauded, is taking it on the chin from critics who will invent any calumny and revise any truth to make their case.

The movement consists of ignoramuses, it’s said. It’s a tool of the Republican party, some contend. The comedian Bill Maher, who thinks all Americans are stupid, calls it a cult. Its lineage is traced by a Prospect magazine article to Joe McCarthy and George Wallace. We’ve now had a tea party terrorist, we’re informed. Some critics point to kooks in the party and others to haters, and at the end of the day, we are all left to shudder in fear of this dreadful thing.

First, of course, it’s true that any movement with millions of followers will have some oddballs and worse in the mix. But anyone who has ventured to a rally or paid close attention to the speeches knows the tea party fringe does not come close to summing up the whole, that there is nothing racist in its rhetoric or accusatory in a McCarthy style.

A CNN poll tells us those involved are middle class, mostly middle aged or beyond and that 75 percent are college-educated. These are not uninformed citizens in pursuit of dingbat policies, but people mostly worried about a killer debt, President Obama’s spendathon tactics to resolve the recession and a health plan that would be unaffordable while giving us a society ever more run by Big Brother in D.C.

Think the position on debt is loony? Those who are similarly concerned include such economists as Alice Rivlin, who served in President Bill Clinton’s Cabinet; Isabel Sawhill, a budget expert at Brookings Institution and Paul Volcker, past chairman of the Federal Reserve. Think we can spend our way out of a recession? Then consult these Nobel Prize winners in economics: James Buchanan, Vernon Smith and Edward Prescott. Will the Obama health plan cuts costs while improving care? Not in the view of Jeffrey Flier, dean of the Harvard Medical School.

So my question for Maher, who thinks people with views different from his just don’t have his analytical skills, is whether he wants to announce to the nation that he has a superior understanding of these issues to the experts I just cited. I will tell you my judgment. He does not understand boo. Maher is a flap-jaw making his living as a clown and whose idea of a good joke is to talk about Sarah Palin’s Down syndrome child. That’s as good as he gets.

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