Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Palin, Tea Partiers narrative misleading

At fist glance, Tea Party participants seem like perfect vessels to the past. A sea of gray hair, jean shorts, long socks, flannel and unironic trucker hats, they march to the tune of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.,” a song so tired and undeniably campy that most Baptist churches are starting to retire it. They maintain a prurient, bizarre obsession with the stock issues of the ’80s and ’90s, like abortion and welfare mothers. If anyone can enlighten us about exactly how things used to be, it should be them.

Last weekend, Sarah Palin elucidated eloquently and neatly how Tea Partiers think things used to be and will soon be again. By that, I mean she spoke in poetic abstractions and zingers for an hour, sprinkling God, freedom and tax cuts like so many commas. She created a one-dimensional narrative, primarily using it to caustically mock Obama’s attempts to promote something beside a one-dimensional narrative. American exceptionalism is the only protagonist, plagued constantly by that big, creepy, bridge-sustaining, industry-subsidizing, hospital-building leviathan called “government.”

Palin has accused liberals of romanticizing an undeserving Obama, and she’s largely correct. Saturday, she demonstrated the conservative version of this by calling for a return to the policies of neoconservatism’s Hercules: Ronald Reagan. This echoed Tea Partiers’ plea in October to develop a “purity test,” whereby any Republican seeking Republican National Committee funding had to score 80 percent on a litmus test echoing Reagan’s philosophy of low taxes, small bureaucracies, and social conservatism. Democrats aren’t the only ones who can project onto a hero.

For starters, Reagan did lower taxes in 1981. But he then raised taxes in 1982, 1983, 1984, and 1986. This included raising payroll taxes and the capital-gains tax, which Palin claims Reagan ended the recession in the early 1980s by lowering.

The deficit almost tripled during Reagan’s time in office. Yes, it was mostly weapons spending and cutting taxes for the Gordon Gekkos of the country, but note that the bureaucracy also expanded during Reagan. And I thought the whole idea behind the Tea Party Movement was that nothing was worth going into debt over – debt is debt. One way Reagan tried to compensate was attempting to cut Medicare, the single-payer program that so many protesters accuse Obama of wanting to eviscerate in the name of giving other people the benefits of socialism.

U.S. public debt as a percentage of GDP had actually been on a long, aggregate fall since the 1950s. From 1980 to 1990, it shot up from 26 percent to 42 percent. It could be argued that Reagan’s raise on payroll tax, which Alan Greenspan recommended, was the most fiscally responsible move he made. Many claim that it saved the Social Security trust fund, which to this day runs a hefty surplus, contrary to the claims of budgetary alarmists.

First, Tea Partiers, like hardcore Obama apologists, need to make a distinction between the idealism their god was elected on and the pragmatism that every public official must adopt when in office.

Second, they need to pick up a history book. This country has been in various levels of debt since the Revolutionary War. The justification for government doing things not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution goes back at least as far as Alexander Hamilton during Washington’s first term, and the legal justification goes back to 1819.

And while we’re on the subject, the Founding Fathers were mostly Voltaire-reading deists who routinely championed religious tolerance. Jefferson once compared the Virgin Birth to the Greek myth of Minerva. Stop trying to brand these guys as fundamentalist Christians.

Hopefully, one of two things will occur to Tea Partiers. The first is that their commitment to the past will go both ways, and they’ll say something like “Man, healthcare premiums are a good deal higher than they used to be. I wonder why.”

The second is that they consider that the splendid “past” they exalt may just be the media’s after-the-fact construction of the past, and that politics is never the struggle between good and evil that the TV makes it out to be.

Josh Veazey is a senior majoring in telecommunication and film. His column runs on Wednesdays.

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