Editor’s note: Here are edited excerpts from some of the 55 comments — many of them in-depth, thoughtful responses — that were generated by Doug Grow’s Friday story on the Minnesota Tea Party movement. The story — and the complete comments, which run more than 9,500 words — is available here.
The Tea Party principles
Neal Rovick: Fine, lofty goals.
- Fiscal responsibility.
- Limited government.
- Free markets.
But it’s all in the details. For instance, isn’t it the height of fiscal irresponsibility to pour hundreds of billions of dollars a year into a military that hasn’t won a shooting war since WW2?
The people who want fiscal responsibility, I’m sure they are refusing Social Security and Medicare for their elderly or disabled relatives and are paying the costs out of their own pocket. Or maybe not, perhaps it’s just money that goes to other people that is the problem.
Limited government for a group of patriots who see nothing wrong with the PATRIOT Act? Limited government for people who typically want to legislate marriage, abortion, affiliation and contacts? Limited government for people who support the biggest security apparatus in the world, “Homeland” security?
Free markets for those who want closed borders? Isn’t that kind of an oxymoron? Free markets for those who decry the looting of America by the big banks and corporations.
It’s all in the details.
Chris Hatch: “Free markets are not a panacea for problems as they bring with them their own set of issues (pollution, dangerous products, false claims, etc.).
Once you accept the need for some regulation, where do you stop? Furthermore, how do you ensure these regulations are followed? It seems some issues we have seen recently are partially caused by underfunded agencies that can’t employ enough people to truly enforce the regulations we have. So how do we balance the need to better fund these agencies with calls to reduce spending?
Perhaps the biggest question for lefties (of which I include myself) is how has the Tea Party movement gathered as many people to be as politically active as they have when the left doesn’t seem to be able to. Why can’t the left do the same thing? Yes, yes I know — look at Obama, but will those people show up for the midterm elections? I have my doubts.
Gerald Abrahamson: After reading their comments, I was just wondering how well they all read, write, and speak Chinese or Arabic — because that is the final outcome given their three fundamental premises …
“Free markets” includes unlimited and unrestricted movement of people (“labor market” — into and out of the U.S. Thus, no way to stop 500+million Chinese (or the Palestinians, for example — and many millions from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Africa, etc.) from choosing to move to the U.S. And you can guess who they vote for in elections once they become U.S. citizens … Or do we suddenly see “free markets” does NOT mean “free markets for everyone” — but rather “free markets for those selected groups we think deserve it — and nobody else”?
James Hamilton: I suspect we could all agree on the three principles stated above, given the right definition. We are not at all likely to agree, however, on what it means to be fiscally responsible, how limited government should be, or precisely how free markets should be. We never have.
In my view, limited government means the government necessary to accomplish the goals we, through our elected representatives have agreed to pursue. Odds are, if I don’t agree with a specific goal I will never agree that the government mechanisms used to pursue it exceed the limits.
Fiscal responsibility is something required of both the electorate and our representatives.
The free markets: have they ever really existed in the U.S.? We’ve regulated international trade since day one, largely in order to protect domestic business interests.
Harris Goldstein: All lofty goals. Fiscal responsibility is, I suppose, a no-brainer as a goal. But we have 100 senators and 435 representatives all bragging about how they bring home the bacon (pork!!!). Notice how when Gates (who, IMHO, is in line for sainthood) proposed eliminating a no longer necessary joint services command — with about twice as many contractors as service members — there was a hue and cry from Virginia’s entire delegation (Repub and Dem). When the tea party members reward congress members who don’t support local spending they’ll get my respect.
Limited government is a valid philosophical argument. But also in the eye of the beholder. The tea party in Florida wasn’t too pleased with limited government (demonstrations when Obama visited) when NASA and Cape Canaveral was being cut back. Other than national defense, SS and Medicare are probably the 2 most intrusive government programs. What’s the tea party position on those 2 programs?
Free markets are great — when you can find them. But if I burn coal to power my incandescent bulb and dump acid rain in your lake then you are subsidizing me. Personally, I think the role of government is to put in place “rules of the road” that allows markets to be free.
It’s one thing to take pot shots at something, it’s another thing to propose a constructive alternative.
Richard Schulze: Is any journalist ever going to ask Tea Party candidates exactly how they plan to simultaneously cut taxes, cut spending and generate surpluses in order to pay down our national debt?
Most of the problems facing America will require solutions — whether it be increasing the retirement age, cutting Medicare, or raising taxes — that cause real pain. Eventually, one of the parties will have to inflict it.
Dale Carlton: Nice to have someone from Tea Party talk to the regular media, not just refuse and appear only in front of supporting groups without questions.
The three principles are great, except they each have different meanings to each person.
Where are the specifics to each principle. As stated they are only generalities.
No discussion of social issues. That is a cop-out!
Anger is not a program.
Tea Party philosophy
Cecil North: I think it’s disingenuous of these TP’ers to suggest that they can be true to their “small government” plank while tolerating the attitudes of social conservatives in their ranks. Social conservatives absolutely want the long hand of government to reach into people’s lives (especially the most personal aspects of their lives) when it suits them.
As it is, fiscal restraint, which is appealing to a broad segment of people in the center, is simply a Trojan horse for the intrusive, “big government” stranglehold that right wingers like Emmer would like to impose on individuals in the name of “values”. And yet, Emmer is the TP darling of MN.
Robert Moffitt: “They even tell us what light bulbs we can use,” said Carol Wegner.
It should be noted that the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the law that phased out the old-fashioned incandescents Wegner refers to, was signed into law by President Bush, not Obama. The sale of the bulbs were falling anyhow, and GE and other makers had already laid off workers and shifted over to more efficient lights.
Bill Schletzer: I also find it interesting that all these so-called fiscal conservatives have come out of the woodwork now. The stimulus ideas that they are all complaining about started under the past Republican administration in an effort to recover from a recession whose root cause was the lack of goverment oversight and regulation of the financial industry.
The idea of “free markets” without goverment oversight is a dangerous idea. The person in the article complaining about how the goverment tells us what light bulb to use, does she also complain about how the goverment tells us what medicine is safe to take or how much pollution a factory can throw into the air? Free markets and profits allow for dangerous drugs to be marketed because occasional deaths and lawsuits from dangerous drugs can be a minor expense when they are making millions and billions on a product.
Chuck Holtman: Yes, these folks reveal a huge level of ignorance about the facts in the world, cultivated by listening to Rush Limbaugh and the rest. But the error of liberals is to dismiss or denigrate the anger at the root of the Tea Party. The anger is absolutely justified; folks feel it viscerally, and for decades the left has offered (outside the realm of acceptable discourse, from which it is excluded) the explanation for it in the way power is created and used to move the social wealth from the many to the few.
Roy Everson: “Personally, I agree with Rand Paul,” Hudson said. “He said that the civil rights acts were appropriate, but not to apply to private organizations.”
That presumably leaves restaurants free to discriminate.
Paul Udstrand: The only important question that the Tea Party raises is how in the world can an advanced and extremely well-developed nation like the United States produce so many people who are so horribly confused and ignorant regarding basic elements of government, economy and politics. Every time I see a piece like this, I look at the comments and statements and I can’t even imagine where to begin a dialogue.
I know it sounds elitist, but as several people have already pointed out, the sheer ignorance regarding health care is enough to make one want to just walk away.
Lance Groth: As another poster said, the devil is in the details, and that is where I have a problem with the TP’ers.
For example, most TP’ers seem to be in the anti-global warming mindset. (To be precise, I assume they mean they don’t believe in anthropogenic global warming. Anyone who thinks the globe is not warming, whatever the cause, is simply delusional. So let’s assume they mean human-caused warming.) The simple fact is, there is no significant scientific debate among climate scientists (who are not tied to the energy industry or politically conservative “think tanks”) that human activity is at least partly responsible for the warming.
I have a hard time taking seriously the opinions of people who don’t respect the science. Thus I must be skeptical of all of their ideas, since at least some of them are based on misinformation or disinformation. …
Karl Karlson: I am not wordy enough to add, ‘cept to note that everyone being responsible only for themselves is anarchy.
Ray Schoch: To claim a well-justified worry about the national debt while simultaneously urging Congress to cut taxes is to tell your family, “We can’t afford to fix the car and put it on our credit card, but by the way, I’m quitting my job.” No sane person pays off debt by first reducing the revenue coming in. Meanwhile, the biggest elephant in the room is one that no one on the right wants to address: a pair of wars we have no business – fiscally or ethically – fighting, and a military budget that’s larger than all the other military budgets on the planet combined, and to no real purpose.
Calls for “limited government” cannot be taken seriously from people who … see nothing wrong with the “Patriot Act,” or legislating everyone’s sex life, all the while trying to establish a state religion when the Constitution is quite clear that there will be NO established religion.
Myles Spicer: What I find most instructive about this article is that this group is a splinter from another group, that might have splintered from … well you get the idea.
The Tea Party is not a party, not a cohesive movement, [and] is without a rudder and has confusing direction and even complaints. In short, they bring very little that is useful to our political process except noise.
Moreover, there really is NO “Tea Party”. It is a conglomeration of many entities — some have already burned out, and some are fronts for PACS (and run by professionals for groups they represent or lobby for), and others (it is purported) simply money-making conduits for their founders. …
In summary, what we have here is a conglomeration of unhappy folks who seem to gather in small groups to vent. The bottom line to me is: anger is not a policy.
Health care views
John Olson: Wegner asks: “Do you want your doctor to determine your health care or some bureaucrat in Washington?”
The answer is C) A “Customer Service Representative” from your health insurance company. This, of course, presumes that one still has health insurance through their employer.
Jeff Klein: It should be phrased as, “do you want your health care to be determined by a government bureaucrat, or a private bureaucrat who has a for-profit motive to screw you over?”
Patrick Coleman: Ms Wegner has it wrong on both counts. At present it is not her doctor, but her insurance company that is in charge of her health care. Under the new law it will not be a bureaucrat. SHE will be responsible for her own health, which sounds like a position she should support.
Paul Scott: Wow, all these supporters of health care reform who accept the woman’s naive premise that a doctor being in control of your health care would automatically be a good thing. (They all argue, rightly, that insurers are in control.)
There are surely many good and hardworking physicians, but they are not handed halos or perfect judgment with their MDs. One of the primary problems in health care today is the influence of private industry on medical protocols, which are then given the imprimatur of medical associations and repeated by doctors.
Doctors routinely advance ineffective and expensive treatments that are bankrupting health care in any number of areas, from cardiology to orthopedics to mental health.
Doug Grow’s story
Walter Hudson: I’d like to thank Doug Grow for chatting with us and writing this article. One of the points we discussed which he wasn’t able to squeeze in is that the polarization in our current political dialogue is unproductive. The fact that we disagree does not make one side or the other ignorant, uneducated, or somehow evil. Grow, a writer who certainly does not share the Tea Party paradigm, was nonetheless able to engage us in a cordial conversation which included substantive debate.
One of the goals of the North Star Tea Party Patriots is to create opportunities to dialogue directly with individuals and groups who hold opposing political views. Too often, we let our media have the conversation for us, or allow the anonymity of the internet to tempt us toward name-calling instead of honest discussion.
Thomas Swift: Not bad, but I have an observation.
“Hudson, who is in his 30s, likely is the farthest from the stereotype of the Tea Party, starting with the fact that he’s black.”
That is more correctly stated “farthest from the leftist stereotype” since the only place one hears race being offered as an issue is leftist media.
Ed Stych: Wow, the first time I read a non-Brauer story on MinnPost in many weeks. Finally a locally written political story that’s not leftist.
David Willard: It is sad that the Left has so little left in its arsenal that they play the race card and try and reconstitute their failed policies. I would like a discussion of actual life, here, Progressyves! … To keep the Conservatives on their game and to continue to make this country great!
To have Doug Grow report on this is like having a chipmunk report on how to fly a 747!
Ginny Martin: It’s puzzling to me how often people vote against their own best interests. I have wondered that about my own family, working class people who voted straight Republican. In college, I remembering hearing the view of one political philosopher … who said it didn’t matter if voters were illiterate or uninformed because they could always look back and see if their lives had improved or not depending on who was in office. (Rough translation.)
So, why can’t ordinary people figure out if their lives have improved or not under an administration and vote accordingly.
They don’t remember who brought about the chaos? They think that 20+ years of bad policy decision can reverse consequences in 2? They don’t hear about the threats to social security and medicare and become alarmed?
I sure don’t know.
Thomas Swift: As I said, common sense conservatives, as least none I know, put any weight into the color of a person’s skin … we’re into ideas.
Richard Schulze: I have problems with a lot of conservative politics, but at the end the day, many of them are my friends, and we have more in common than not. There are good ideas from both the “left” and the “right” and [I] would like to see more people of good faith discussing them civilly and working together for the greater good instead of ideological purity …
Tim Larson: ”There are good ideas from both the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ and [I] would like to see more people of good faith discussing them civilly and working together for the greater good instead of ideological purity …”
The biggest problem we face is the team mentality our “ruling class” has so successfully implemented for their own profit. They have taken divide and conquer to a level not seen for a very long time.
Chris Nerlien: The Tea Party Movement has largely been legitimated of late, but without any true cohesion on numerous social issues, any long-term sustainability of the movement is not possible. Without details on issues, formal platforms or intra-group compromising, it will not last beyond another election cycle; two at most.
Glenn Mesaros: No other politician besides Michele Bachmann has associated herself so closely with the “tea parties,” which are a grass-roots, albeit, amorphous grouping of disparate Americans. Therefore, her success, i.e. re-election, should define the success or failure of this movement. If she wins, which seems likely, it will mean the democrats/liberals/progressive have failed to 1) come up with a message, or program, and 2) failed to convince a majority of voters in a very blue state.
Kathy Coulter: Walter Hudson: Thank you for demonstrating the meaning of the word “class.” Many here would do well to learn from your example.