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Corn: Tea party anger is merely destructive

POSTED: March 26, 2010 1:00 a.m.

The turbulent economic times we are experiencing have recently produced a curious political byproduct: public rage. One need not go far to encounter it, for exaggerated anger fills virtually all public space for debate, from the airwaves to the opinion pages to the anonymous mobs on the Internet.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise. The middle class in this country has been gradually losing its share of income and legal protection for 30 years as a rapacious class of elites has consolidated its hold on power.

Pat Buchanan has rightly pointed out the old Western power elite has been gradually displaced by an international business elite that is not at all concerned with our national political scene. Meanwhile, the official statistics show that, when adjusted for inflation, the average American earns less than he or she did 10 years ago. The incremental pace of these losses has made the surrender nearly invisible until recently, but the current economic upheaval has been an illumination.

As prisoners who have been chained in the dark while sleeping are suddenly awakened by lights coming on, many are for the first time aware of their captivity, but know not who to blame for it.

Another source of negative sentiment is our economy of consumption in which one is continually bombarded with advertising and its promises of material satisfaction and physical comfort. It presents the individual with an ideal lifestyle centered on comfort, luxury, ease. This fantasy created by salesmen has even been taken up as a philosophy of life by public personalities, from Oprah Winfrey to Joel Osteen. These false philosophers and prophets busily peddle "the power of positive thinking" in one form or another, telling the masses they need only want badly enough in order to achieve their desires.

This childish belief can be found across America's mental landscape today, and in a time of hardship it has the effect of plunging its adherents into despair. Worthlessness does not sit well with many however, and they too are now looking to blame others for their loss.

The political manifestation of all this fury is the tea party movement. Many are drawn to this group because it gives voice to their fear and aggression, and more importantly, it proposes a fix for their loss of status. Yet most enthusiasts of the tea party fail to acknowledge that the movement has no new ideas, principles or workable reforms to offer the polity.

In fact, the tea party proposes to build nothing, make nothing and argue nothing. It knows only to take apart, using emancipation for an excuse. It is organized aggression in action, destruction.

Those who support the tea party usually describe themselves as conservatives, but as was recently reported by Politico, evangelical Christians are increasingly wary of a movement that shows no intent to legislate morality or much else, for that matter.

In fact the movement's objective is something altogether different. The "Contract from America" proposed by one tea party group is a blueprint for the deconstruction of the American state. Among other things it proposes the total deregulation of industry and the abolition of the graduated income tax. It also proposes the effective bankruptcy of our social welfare programs, Social Security and Medicare by allowing young people to opt out. It recommends an end to standardized public schools and a halt to new infrastructure projects.

In its takedown of the federal system, these "patriots" would spare only the existing security apparatus, so that we would be left with essentially a police state to wave the American flag.

In his survey of the human mind, Robert Burton bids us "look into our histories, and you shall almost meet with no other subject, but what a company of hare-brains have done in their rage!"

A reasoned view of our current economy points out that we are at the natural end of a long postwar economic expansion. And there is an unseen force working against our continued national ascent. That force is the essential nature of modern industry: to equalize costs across all borders, making wages and prices the same everywhere.

During the last 30 years in the U.S., we have postponed the pains of this global equalizing by means of a large debt bubble, where householders, businesses, large corporations and governments have borrowed to hold their ground. At the height of the debt bubble, American households were paying nearly 40 percent more in interest payments than in 1980. With the crash of 2008, however, we reached the limits of that empty fix, and are once again faced with the relentless pressures of an economy without borders.

So far, the main political response of our return to economic reality has been to burn down the Capitol, which may very well be needed. Political leveling can lead to positive results once it has run its course.

But getting to that low point will not be enjoyable for most. If America's next great project is its own dismemberment, then the tea party is the perfect agent for such an undertaking. For it is ruled by ignorance, bigotry, fear and foolery.

Jesse Corn is a Gainesville native and a Forsyth County resident. His column appears alternate Fridays and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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