The Teabag Platform – Clear Even in L.A.

sarah palin barbie dollRecently I wrote, wondering what Tea Party folks want when they speak of change and “taking back our government” or “restoring the Constitution.” I noted that it was much easier to learn what the Teabaggers were against than what they were for. But in the heat of the primary campaigns, we have had the chance to learn a lot more about what the Teabaggers are for, as well as what they oppose.

If Sarah Palin is Teabag Barbie, then Rand Paul must be Teabag Ken. Each is an entirely commercial construction, doing nothing more than separating consumers from their dollars. Just as Barbie is an anatomically impossible construction, Sarah is an intellectually indefensible construction, attacking science, facts and logic and selling the lie that government policy can be built on stridency, emotion, and illusions.

Ken always plays second fiddle to Barbie. He knows who makes the big sales for the family, and willingly changes his outfit and outlook to suit her mood of the day. Rand Paul just as plastically morphed from Tea Party independent to Republican Party loyalist in the hours between the close of primary polls and his public kissing of Mitch McConnell’s ring. With the ease of Ken changing outfits, Rand first shored up his white supremacy base by condemning the 1964 Civil Rights Act and then pivoted to a spirited defense of the “unfairly criticized” BP Oil and the “safety first” management of Massey Coal Company.

Barbie and Ken are marketing creations designed to exalt image over reality in the realm of children’s toys. Sarah and Rand are marketing creations designed to exalt image over reality in real world governance. In both cases, the goal of their marketing creators is to make money by appealing to transitory emotions, while distracting consumers from reality. But the social cost of children playing with toys is very different from that of governments ignoring reality.

Teabag Republicans claim to honor private property and to condemn unnecessary regulation. Now we have learned that Rand Paul stole the music that his campaign uses at rallies and in commercials. The people who own the music, as their private property, are suing Rand for violating copyright regulations. Those damn people are even foreigners! (Canadians.)

You see, those foreigners are trying to use unnecessary government copyright regulations to keep Rand from taking what he wants. Any good libertarian can tell you that a person should be able to take whatever he wants, if he has the ability to, from whomever owns it. Rand’s Teabag supporters want to elect people who will restore Constitutional freedoms (like the freedom to take what you want) and end things like unnecessary copyright laws and regulations.

Except that the Constitution that they say they want to “restore” explicitly provides that the Federal Government shall have the authority to regulate copyrights. (Article I, §.8) So, in order to gain personal profit for their hero candidate, Teabaggers are ready to “restore” the Constitution by stripping out an inconvenient part of that Constitution?!

Rand’s decision to exalt his personal greed by using someone else’s property to benefit his campaign brings us to the Teabaggers right here in L.A. Chuck Wilkerson is running as the self-proclaimed Teabagger in the Republican primary for the Congressional seat currently occupied by Henry Waxman. Wilkerson fits the NY Times profile of a Teabagger, perfectly. He is about 70 years old, very white, very well-to-do, and a lifelong, dedicated supporter of the furthest right wing of the Republican Paerty.

As a “free market” Republican, he supports the Cheney/Bush no-bid, no-competition approach to government contracts. This is his natural environment, as he proclaims his lifetime of working for military contractors – thus living on taxpayers’ labors – while claiming to oppose government spending.

But living on the taxpayers’ no-bid dime, while pretending to be a free-marketeer isn’t unusual or illegal. It’s pretty mainstream for a traditional Republican. Chuck Wilkerson’s main campaign issue is global warming. He wants to get to Congress so he can force hearings to prove that there is no global warming.

Both the CIA and the Pentagon decided, during the Cheney/Bush administration, that global warming was real. Chuck Wilkerson now claims that the CIA and the Pentagon have joined a vast conspiracy of university researchers to impose a new world order on the U.S.A. Wilkerson’s Teabag position is that all those generals and Republican officials have joined an international conspiracy to create a global warming fraud, all just for the huge salaries that generals and congressmen get paid. He even has proof!

He cites an Australian “expert” for his evidence. He has to go to Australia for his expert because, he says, all the US and European scientists are corrupted by the government research grants they get. You see, if you’re getting $50,000 or $100,000 a year in grants, that’s bound to corrupt you – you’ll produce the results, and fudge the data, to support a conspiracy of lies.

Wilkerson’s Australian “scientist” makes a million dollars a year from mines and other polluting industries Down Under, and more from selling lies to global warming deniers. Those industries are all threatened by pollution control proposals. But Wilkerson claims that it is small government grants, not millions in personal profits that corrupt people’s viewpoint.

Wilkerson calls himself a life-long Republican. But he opposes the CIA and Pentagon decisions to protect national security by planning to deal with global warming. And he does it simply to protect the private profits of people who invest in polluting businesses.

Not surprisingly, Wilkerson also claims that public schools and education are part of the problem in our nation, not part of the solution. In the same week that 48 states agreed to a proposal to have national education standards, Chuck Wilkerson said that we should be busting teachers’ unions, slashing teacher salaries and turning education over to private enterprise, to make a profit. 48 States. That’s every state except Alaska and Texas, even the most “red” states want some minimum standards. But the Teabag position is that public education is bad and should be ended.

Private, for-profit schools, like University of Phoenix get almost every cent of their income from government grants and loans to students. Back in the bad old days of liberals like Clinton and Reagan, that federal money paid for students to study at places like UCLA, USC, Occidental and Santa Monica College. And those schools had to actually educate and graduate their students.

But the Cheney/Bush administration changed the rules. Now, government statistics reveal that only 4% of students in online classes at the University of Phoenix graduate. The “university” rakes in billions in tuition grants, but teaches nothing and students drop out like fish in BP’s leak zone. But investors rake in huge dividends and stock price increases, and Teabag Chuck likes that.

The Puritans set up public schools in the colonies in the 1630s. They claimed that education was something that their religion – Christianity – required them to provide. Chuck Wilkerson’s website pretends that he too is a Christian. But not a Puritan, founding fathers kind of Christian. He is a TV preacher, anti-charity, pro-profit Christian.

Chuck Wilkerson grew up going to public schools, built and staffed by taxpayer dollars. He made his fortune in military contracting, paid for by taxpayer dollars. He talks about enjoying National Parks and other taxpayer funded benefits of living in this great nation. But he doesn’t want any of that for the next generation.

Wilkerson isn’t some kind of nutball. – He’s an investor. He’s not against public spending – he just doesn’t want public spending to benefit the public. He wants tax dollars to be spent on the kinds of businesses he invests in. His education proposals mirror Rand Paul’s statements that Rand wants welfare to be paid to rich doctors, rather than to struggling farmers.

tom_hall_2.jpgSarah, Rand, and Chuck help us see that the Teabag platform is really the traditional Republican platform – money for the privileged, drudgery for the rest. They like the previous administration precisely because it didn’t reign in government spending, but rather re-routed government welfare from the poor to the corporate wealthy.

And campaigns like Wilkerson’s help us understand our choices. If we stay home on election day, we cede the government to him and to the Teabag movement.

Tom Hall

Published by the LA Progressive on June 7, 2010
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About Tom Hall

Tom Hall is a family lawyer in West Los Angeles. He is from Boston, and was raised in Friends Meeting at Cambridge (Quakers) to think that religion was a progressive force. During the Vietnam War, he organized draft counseling centers and worked with groups training people in techniques for disciplined nonviolent demonstrating. After the war, he became just another yuppie working to make a comfortable life. The Bush administration shocked him back into social concerns. Now he’s working to see that the Obama administration lives up to its progressive promises. Tom can be reached at ProgBlog@aol.com