Is the Tea Party Nothing But a Front for the Corporate GOP?
Before and after his term as California governor, Ronald Reagan shilled for large -corporations. His biggest laugh line was, "The nine scariest words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.'"
In speeches to -businessmen, the -loudest applause came by slamming OSHA and corporate taxes. By promoting "getting big government off the backs of businesses," he became the darling/puppet of the corporate world, which funded his (unsuccessful) runs for the White House in '68 and '76. That "anti-big government" sentiment has since remained the Republican mantra.
The corporate motive was to -deregulate industry. Government inspectors were intruders; storm -troopers; "socialists who think 'profit' is a dirty word," as Reagan said. Unions were demonized for increasing costs. Republicans never raised the minimum wage. OSHA was a popular whipping boy as businesses blamed safety regulations for increasing expenses.
Oversight hindered the great economic engine of capitalism. Thus, Reagan's and two subsequent Bush administrations oversaw budgets for food and safety inspectors cut to the bone; Hormel break the meatpackers' union; safety/cleanliness conditions at food processing plants approach the days of Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle." (Read Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation," or watch video on YouTube.)
Mineworkers' safety was compromised. S&L scandals, corporate greed, offshore business relocation, Enron, deregulation of banks/brokerage -houses, derivative markets - all are the fruits of the anti-government seedlings planted by the Reagan Revolution.
The greatest harvests came during the Bush/Tom Delay years, when corporate lobbyists actually wrote the oversight legislation. Corporate foxes were assigned to head the agencies designed to protect the public's hen houses. Creationists and climate change deniers headed the National Science Foundation.
George Bush appointed Spencer Abraham to head the EPA, the very agency Abraham tried to kill as a congressman. (That's akin to Democrats naming Jane Fonda secretary of defense.) Dick Cheney held secret "energy policy" meetings with oil and coal representatives. Neither scientists nor environmentalists were present.
The president of the United Mine Workers Union said Bush's appointee to the Mine Safety and Health Administration "turned the MSHA from an oversight and enforcement agency into a business consulting group." During the Bush years, half of all the nation's coal mines - 847 - submitted fake coal dust samples to government labs for testing.
Fines against coal companies for safety violations totaled just $7 million for eight years! Coal companies wrote mine-safety laws devoid of enforcement mechanisms, ensuring delays through endless appeal processes. Due to these appeal processes, and because Massey Coal keeps unions out of its mines, the company wasn't even required to post the 500 safety violations on appeal at the Upper Big Branch mine. Those miners, including the 29 who died, entered that mine every day unaware of the safety infractions.
One would think that like Teddy Roosevelt and the Progressives of a hundred years ago, the nation got the message that corporations are too influential and must be regulated. Most of the nation has, but tea partiers remain unenlightened. This latest GOP incarnation promotes no positions that average people need - like strong consumer or health protection, advocacy against the most powerful factions or oversight of those who can (and usually do) exploit us.
Think the miners at UBB, or the Deepwater Horizon drillers, would have appreciated Big Brother's oversight? But partiers ignore them. Instead, they demand less government and confuse deregulation with "freedom." Yet note what they oppose: health care reform, alternative energy, moratoriums on offshore drilling, Wall Street re-regulation, and anything Obama - aka, the Republican/corporate agenda.
They insist big government is socialism, and Obama is raising taxes. No it's not, and he isn't. Governments protect workers, consumers and the environment. Governments ensure safe foods and medicine. We are the government. Reagan had it half right: Ineffective government is the problem.
Tea partiers lie about Obama raising taxes. He's cut them. The nonpartisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities wrote, "Tax rates for families are the lowest in 50 years," and 98 percent of Americans got tax breaks this year. Even the conservative Cato Institute concedes that Obama's only tax increase was on cigarettes. But tea partiers continue to bash him.
Not convinced theirs isn't the Republican agenda?
The Tea Partiers of Boston Harbor didn't oppose taxation per se, but -taxation without representation. Today, the only Americans taxed but not -represented in the Senate are residents of the District of Columbia, thought it is more populous than two states.
One would then imagine, in keeping with their principles - politics aside, because tea partiers claim independence - that they'd support D.C.'s cause. So ask Sarah Palin if she -supports Washingtonians being -represented with two (undoubtably Democratic) senators. Then watch her dump principle and independence into the harbor.
Rick Gagliardo is a retired high school teacher living in Pinehurst.
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