Another name for Tea Party is the weary middle class

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Washington crowd of politicians and media folk pretends not to understand who the Tea Party folks are, where they come from and what makes them tick.

One-size-fits-all descriptions are incomplete, but here’s the gist. Tea Partiers are people who know that:

• Once President Barack Obama finishes forcing “the rich” to pay their “fair share” of taxes, the truly rich will still have all their toys — big houses, vacation homes, boats and such;

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• The poor aren’t going anywhere. Tea Partiers know this is a group that has become larger, not smaller, since President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty in 1964, and;

• Once again it will be the middle class that gets sacked.

It’s as wrong to write off this group as a bunch of ignorant, greedy, gunslinging, right-wingers as it would be to characterize all those who believe governments have a duty to act broadly and aggressively as eggheads, communists and socialists. It’s also wrong to make them a suspect class because most are white, given that the U.S. House is 91 percent white and the Senate is 99 percent white.

A real reporter would tune in to what Tea Partiers are saying. Former President George Bush, whom a majority of them trusted and supported, betrayed them by allowing Republican majorities in Congress to increase the nation’s debt by an amount equal to all presidents who preceded him. Now President Obama and his Democratic majorities have signed away the nation’s financial future.

The Tea Partiers recognize that America is teetering on the edge of an economic collapse. Most of them have balanced checkbooks all their lives. Having been let down by the fantasy math that infects Washington, they’ve got nowhere to turn. There’s anger and disappointment, but the overriding emotion is frustration that common sense, always rare in government circles, has, like Elvis, left the building.

One commentator railed on Tea Partiers for opposing the coming overhaul of how health care services will be delivered and paid for. He said they were just selfish, mean-spirited.

That’s not accurate, not at all.

America has a whole raft of people who remember growing up in families where one parent’s paycheck fed and housed the family. These days, the same people can’t imagine sustaining themselves without two or more incomes. They:

• Write a check at the grocery store hoping the direct payroll deposit got to the bank, knowing the next three people in line will pay with benefit cards.

• Avoid hospital emergency rooms because as privately insured people they must pay their $300 deductible in cash before they will be seen by a doctor, knowing others in the waiting area will be seen because they have Medicare, Medicaid or SCHIP cards.

• Have remained current on their house notes for 15 years or more, despite any and all difficulties, then read about how government would bail out people facing foreclosure, often on far more expensive homes, and big companies that were reckless with other people’s money.

• Just filed tax returns showing their income was too high for earned income rebates of thousands more than was withheld from their salaries.

• Face sending a child to college knowing their tax bracket will keep them from qualifying for Pell or other grants, but certainly don’t have the money to pay tuition and fees in cash.

An abundance of Tea Partiers don’t want anybody to go without health care or housing. They want everybody to have a good job and the best education possible for their children. They go to church. They volunteer. They vote. They care. Generally, they’ve been optimistic.

But they’re weary of a dysfunctional government and wave after wave of politicians who pledge to govern from a reasoned perspective, but then get elected and spend all of their time catering to the party leadership and finding other ways to position themselves to be re-elected.

Tea Partiers have seen countless instances in which Congress has added programs projecting a small cost and then saying, “Oops.” The Medicare prescription drug benefit, created by bipartisan vote just seven years ago, is now costing five times the estimate. Tea Partiers know the health care makeover, passed by Democrats only, will be no different.

Of course, the Washington crowd has good reason to keep pretending to want to learn who these Tea Partiers are and finding one or more of the nutso extremists who flock to all spectacles.

It’s a good strategy to ignore and discredit these usually passive people. After all, it has worked in the past when the rabble has stirred. The hope is that disenchanted citizens will again become busy with their routines and lose interest. And that, of course, will lead to business as usual resuming for the Washington crowd of politicians and media folk.