A Question For The Tea Partyers

It’s fairly clear what your against and, by and large I agree, but what, exactly, are you for:

Protesting government spending is meaningless unless you say what you’d cut.


All protests against spending that do not tell us how to reduce it are fatuous pieces of theater, not constructive acts of politics. And until the right is able to make a constructive and specific argument about how they intend to reduce spending and debt and borrowing, they deserve to be dismissed as performance artists in a desperate search for coherence in an age that has left them bewilderingly behind.

It is, I think, an entirely fair question.

C/P: Below The Beltway

  • Justin

    That’s pretty easy…

    In the last budget and stimulus package I would cut:

    $150 for honey bee insurance
    $4.19 billion in slush funds for ACORN
    $600 million to buy brand new cars for government bureaucrats
    $335 million for adult sex workshops
    $2.8 billion for the US Department of Agriculture
    $2 billion for a failed oil plant

    And how about another $19 Billion in pork:

    And that’s just this year… it doesn’t take into account the massive waste already underway before the stimulus.

  • The Commander

    Can they possibly be asking for detail after the Obama Glittering Generality campaign? You know, the one based on nebulous hope and undefined change?

    Why is there never a request for detail from an – oh, I don’t know – Code Pink protest?

    It appears to me the silent majority is no longer content to be silent.

    These protests were immense – far beyond the scale of the left protests where 3 protestors are outnumberd by 28 cameramen.

    Wake up, America.

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis


    You’ve just knocked about $ 27 billion out of a $ 3 trillion budget.

    The fiscal equivalent of swatting a gnat.

    It’s a good start, but not enough to really deal with these problems; which is why I think the Republican focus on pork is pretty much a distraction from the fact that they don’t have the guts to propose real budget cuts.

  • Hank

    I believe there would have to be dramatic cuts if we have any chance of avoiding a crippling meltdown in the value of the dollar.

    I believe also that our society is unwilling to take that unpalatable medicine – and would rather live with the cancer.

    Learn to live with less, for the dollar is going to buy less. :-(

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis


    I believe also that our society is unwilling to take that unpalatable medicine – and would rather live with the cancer.

    I think you’re right.

    Ask conservatives if they’d be willing to give up the home mortgage interest deduction, for example, or the deduction for charitable donations.

  • Peter

    Places to start (this, of course, is just the beginning):

    Department of Defense – shut down most (or all) of the foreign bases.

    Department of Education – shut the whole thing down.

    Social Security/Medicare: raise the minimum age for benifits by 10 years.

    Department of Agriculture: stop subsidizing farms.

    I really do not understand why the left does not complain more about the mortgage interest tax deduction, it is blatantly favoring the rich (the rich have bigger houses, and so pay more mortgage interest). And we all know that the rich are evil and should be taxed in every possible way, right?

  • southernjames

    Sure I’ll give up the home mortgage deductions in exchange for a revolutionary change in the tax code – whether it be the Fair Tax, Flat Tax, etc.

    But as one of those actual tax PAYERS who foot 72% or whatever it is, of the bill for the rest of the country, under the current code – no I am not willing to give up my mortgage deduction OR my charitable contribution deduction – JUST so that the Bloated Beast in Washington can have a smaller deficit? Are you kidding me? Those are the only two deductions, other than real estate taxes, that I HAVE.

    And you post THAT as the solution to the deficit?

    Oh gee, what to do, what to do? Come on. Give me a break. Great ideas are out there and they have been all over the place for ages. Bail-out money to stimulate the economy? Okay, instead of increasing the deficit with Trillion dollar bail-outs which consist of porked laden hand-outs to favored constituencies….if they are going to increase the deficit to stimulate the economy, how about some alternatives to REALLY stimulate the economy….

    Cutting corporate tax rates to zero, for a period of time?
    Eliminating payroll taxes for a set time period?
    Accelerating the depreciation rates on equipt purchases, so that all equipt is fully depreciated in one year?

    But oh no – such private enterprise stimuli which may increase the deficit in the short term, but which will surely STIMULATE economic growth and employment are unacceptable to the Ruling Class of both parties controlling DC. Because such actions don’t represent a transfer of power and control TO Washington. And that is what this stimulus bullshit is really all about.

    Want some more ideas? Businesses across America are having to tighten their belts, layoff employees, and institute paycuts and pay freezes. Why not the Federal Govt? Somebody explain that to me. Why is DC a BOOM town right now, and every other big city is suffering? Somebody justify that to me.

    So how about this concept: Every single Dept of the Federal Govt, except the national security organizations like FBI, DoD, and perhaps the Air Traffic controllers, has to lay off 5% of the their employees, (and this includes Congressional and WH staff,too not just i.e., the IRS, Dept of Agriculture, etc. ), freeze all pay for 2009 (no raises); and via act of Congress which controls the Fed workers union, right? – restructure Fed employee vacation, pension, health benefit plan. Just like if GM was truly under the authority of a Chapter 11 Judge instead of an Obama bureaucrat, those union contracts would get re-written. Re-write the Fed employees fat contracts – which provide better benys and pension than any private employer in America.

    As for the executive branch homeland security agencies – how about some streamlining? Why have we grown to over a dozen(?) separate agencies – FBI, CIA, NSF, DHS, ATF, DOJ, etc, etc.? Did you know the Secret Service doesn’t just provide bodyguards to politicians? Nope, they also investigate white collar crime, like credit card frauds or those “Nigerian” email get rich quick schemes. Why? Overlap much? Think there might be some inefficiencies which could be corrected, thereby saving money? Ya think?

    Since the Federal government is spending money it does not have, should certain non-critical funding, which may be nice to have in boom times, but which perhaps we simply not afford right now, be eliminated altogether? How about if we eliminate the NEA completely? I don’t think it even existed prior to the early 60’s. And we had plenty of art, poetry, literature, and music created in this country before 1960, right? How about all funding for PBS? Why do my tax dollars have to subsidize Bill Moyer’s left wing rants, when no left winger is taxed to subsidize right wing talk radio?

    How about taking a REAL hard look at those Ag subsidies like the Ethanol boondoggle.

    How about tax incentives to encourage R&D of battery and hybrid technology; combined with opening up our frozen tundra and the Gulf (which I happen to live on) to drilling/exploration; combined with tax incentives/breaks or even stimulus dollars for the construction of 30 new nuclear power plants, with ground to be broken on them, on an asap basis? (Think any good paying jobs might be created as a result? Ya think?). How many years would it then take to become totally energy independant from our good friends in the Middle East – if ALL our electricity come from domestic nuclear, coal, oil, and natural gas – and the vehicles we drive are either plugged in to the wall at night and/or a hybrid using a lot larger % of domestically drilled oil?

    Sure the current crop of Republicans don’t have the guts to propose real cuts. That is why the Tea Party movement CANNOT be a Repub vs Dem thing. Is that not obvious? It has to be a movement where local and state and federal officials are promoted and elected who DO have the guts to finally fight to transform our government.

    But will it happen? Will it succeed? I have zero confidence that it will. Most people love being dependants of the Nanny State. But I at least owe it to my teenage kids and my as yet unborn grandkids to take a stand and try.

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis

    Most people love being dependants of the Nanny State.


    I seriously doubt that the American public would really want the limited “night watchman” state that would be required to truly deal with this problem.

  • tfr

    -about $1T in bank and “financial institution” bailouts.
    -about $1T in pork projects, erroneously labeled a “stimulus”.
    -Throw in a few measly $B for auto-maker bailouts.
    Where to even begin on the rest?
    -Dept of Agriculture – 99% of it.
    -Education, Commerce
    -Dept of Defense – what do we even need an F22 for? A WWII P47 or P51 could drop ordnance on a cave as easily, for about 1/100th the cost. Probably at least 75%.
    -Labor, Energy, Transportation, FEMA
    -“aid” to hundreds of recipients all over the world
    etc. etc. etc.

  • Eric

    Doug, before the North American colonists really figured out what they were FOR, as a group, they figured out what they were AGAINST. Read the pamphlets and look at the actions of the day during the pre-revolutionary era. I would argue that you are seeing something similar. I think TARP, ARRA, etc. are the modern equivalent of the Stamp Act.

  • http://gordonunleashed.com/blog/ Stephen Gordon

    For immediate starters:

    No more bailouts or stimulus packages

    Eliminate the Department of Education

    Eliminate military welfare for countries like Germany and Japan

    Then the list gets very long, indeed.

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  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis


    Except for the DoE, those are the easy ones (although cutting off aid to Israel is likely the other third rail of American politics)

    I just question whether the public as a whole has a stomach for what needs to be done.

  • Larry Sheldon

    I’d start by cutting anything to do with global warming (I would not cut programs working to clean up the environment, particularly with regard to the messes from previous bad ideas. But see below.

    I cut any spending that is not authorized by open legislation where the reasons for the spending were fully debated.

    I would cut any funding where the majority of the legislators voting for it can not pass a college-level written examination inquiring about the reasons for, beneficiaries of, and expected outcomes from the legislation. (“Pass” means more that 75% correct.)

    I would cut funding for any “non-government” agency.

    I would cut funding to many program that has run for more than 5 years unless re-enacted.

    Then I would hope that I had had time to find the really big chunks of waste and go after them.

  • Eric

    Doug, I think that the group of people that pay 97% of all federal taxes (that would be the top 50% of income earners) have been fine with things so long as they saw their standard of living improving, taxes staying (relatively) low, etc. Now that group of people sees their “way of life” jeopardized.

    If that continues, I think they will have the stomach for it because, frankly, they aren’t the people impacted by cutting things like military welfare for Europe, Dept of Education, Health & Human Services, etc.

    Honestly, before you can be for something new you have to be against something that already exists. It’s the only way to move most people out of their conservative state.

    FYI, the American Revolution was never supported by as much as 50% of the colonists. I believe the numbers were more like 10 to 20 percent. You could bring about huge change in this country with 20 percent of the population backing you. Most Republicans and Democrats go along with the herd that they identify with. Obama was able to get elected with much less than that portion of the population actively backing him.

    So, the real issue is that the people most likely to take action and have the stomach for that action are the ones who, up till now, felt comfortable with where things were. Or, rather, not too uncomfortable. As more of the population edges towards being “too uncomfortable”, things will change. THat is, for example, how the populist overthrows of East Germany, Czechoslovakia and the USSR happened.

    I think you ought to stop sneering at the “populist” movements and start figuring out how to create one.

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  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis


    As long as the movement doesn’t include the hypocritical Republicans who helped get us into this mess.

  • Eric

    You know, I used to think differently politically. I even used to say things that some might consider hypocritical. Stop worrying about excluding those you deem not pure enough, or too hypocritical, or whatever. Take a page from the books of successful revolutionaries. They allow folks travelling in their same direction to be part of the movement until they start to jeopardize the movement.

    Right now you need to build such a movement, not worry about purity.

  • Nylarthotep

    “All protests against spending that do not tell us how to reduce it are fatuous pieces of theater, not constructive acts of politics.”

    Hmm. Interesting if completely vapid in understanding that a protest in itself is an act of political maneuver. Protests tell the politicos that the peasantry, um excuse me, the citizenry are angry at their behavior. Providing a constructive alternative is not the mobs job.

    And as was aptly proven by the Obots election of the President Obama, they weren’t forging a constructive answer to the politics of the last 8 years, but throwing the bums who didn’t listen to them out.

  • http://gordonunleashed.com/blog/ Stephen Gordon


    That’s why I picked easy ones just for starters.

  • TerryP

    I would also add ending all grants from the federal gov’t.

    It never made much sense to me that we had to send money to the fed gov’t, then write up a litany of paperwork (ie costing money and time) begging to get some of the money back, and then if you are lucky enough to get some of the money back it will come with many strings attached. Why not just keep the money in your community in the first place. This is also a big way they reward their special interest groups and make people that are receiveing the grants feel like they are getting something from the federal gov’t. To me though it is like filling a bucket of water on one side of the pond and then walking around to the other side losing some of the water as you go (drinking some and giving some to your cronies) and then pooring the remaining in the pond and telling the people just how much good you are doing in filling the pond, yet for some reason the pond just seems to be getting smaller all the time. The politician then says just give me more control and I will fill it up even more, and we do, but the pond still just keeps getting smaller. The politican just blames everyone else, but themselves. At some point you would hope that we would figure it out, but there are many people who are having a bucket thrown in for them or their cause so they find it hard to give up that bucket not seeing the cost of all the other buckets.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/2005/11/21/who-is-eric/ Eric

    Terry, I like your pond analogy almost as much as I like Bastiat’s broken window story!!! That’s a great analogy that really explains the concept of what is seen and what is not seen amazingly well.

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