Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tom Friedman to the Rescue

Thomas Friedman today in the New York Times tells us that there are two Tea Party movements in American : one is ultimately insignificant but drawing a lot of press attention; the other is ignored and leaderless, but will transform the country if anyone picks up on it. Former is what we call the Tea Party movement and the latter is the true Tea Party. ("The Tea Kettle Movement," September 28, 2010.)

Hey, Tom! The first step is obvious to everyone in the TPM. Stop spending! The best way to do that at this point is: vote the Democrats out of office. Stop the Obama addiction to zeros. Yes, the Republicans under George W. Bush's leadership had public money flowing like water from a ghetto hydrant. But Barack Obama broke the dam, and the Tea Party movement took off. It is what my fellow blogger, Harold Kildow, has pointed out, it's "the trouble with trillions."

In my column today, "The Tea Party: More Than Steam," I look at the Tea Party agenda, such as it is, and how is does indeed promise to accomplish what Friedman says it can't: restore America to its vigor and preeminence.

Friedman says the real groundswell of popular unrest is unsettled by a different set of issues that go more the heart of our problems.

The issues that upset the Tea Kettle movement — debt and bloated government — are actually symptoms of our real problem, not causes. They are symptoms of a country in a state of incremental decline and losing its competitive edge, because our politics has become just another form of sports entertainment, our Congress a forum for legalized bribery and our main lawmaking institutions divided by toxic partisanship to the point of paralysis.

This true Tea Party Movement which, unlike the commonly identified but false one, has a substantive agenda that focuses on "America’s core competency and strategic advantage," which is "our ability to attract, develop and unleash creative talent. That means men and women who invent, build and sell more goods and services that make people’s lives more productive, healthy, comfortable, secure and entertained than any other country."

It's obvious that the people who make up this popular movement have spent a long time thinking through the details of what they want from government in response to our crisis.

Leadership today is about how the U.S. government attracts and educates more of that talent and then enacts the laws, regulations and budgets that empower that talent to take its products and services to scale, sell them around the world — and create good jobs here in the process. Without that, we can’t afford the health care or defense we need. This is the plan the real Tea Party wants from its president (emphasis added).
The Friedman gives us more details:

To implement it would require us to actually raise some taxes — on, say, gasoline — and cut others — like payroll taxes and corporate taxes. It would require us to overhaul our immigration laws so we can better control our borders, let in more knowledge workers and retain those skilled foreigners going to college here. And it would require us to reduce some services — like Social Security — while expanding others, like education and research for a 21st-century economy. 
Wow. This is a popular movement that only an ivory tower liberal can imagine. There are some good ideas mixed in here, but it strains credibility to suggest that there's an angry giant of American popular opinion ready to explode out there with all these ideas on his mind. Essentially, Tom Friedman has said that it's not the Tea Party movement that's going to transform American politics and save the country. Instead it's...Tom Friedman!

We'll be waiting for that, Tom.

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