Point of View

An NC lesson in what the ‘TEA Party’ is – and isn’t

October 3, 2013 

In saying that, “The government shutdown illustrates for every American that the hallmark of the Tea Party Republican House continues to be ironclad opposition to reasonable solutions,” U.S. Rep. David Price, a North Carolina Democrat, attempted to do two things with the TEA Party movement: Lump it together with the Republican Party and completely dismiss any policy ideas that emerge from the movement.

Price’s statement came after Sen. Harry Reid’s Sept. 25 statement on the floor of the U.S. Senate when he called the TEA Party movement, “the new anarchy.” So much for civil political dialogue.

What is troubling about these statements is the glaring misunderstanding of the grassroots conservative movement called the “TEA Party” and their attempts to whisk it away without a thought or care to the legitimacy of any of its arguments.

The TEA Party movement – there is no single TEA Party – emerged and still exists as a decentralized political movement focused on reining in governmental power and spending. The movement is not a byproduct of any political party, but of the sheer will of activists who have legitimate concerns about the direction of the nation.

Liberals attempt to paint the TEA Party movement as simply “anti-government,” but that is simply not a factual representation. TEA stands for “Taxed Enough Already,” not “abolish the government” or “shut down the government.” The phrase “Taxed Enough Already” simply indicates serious concerns about the growth of the size and power of government, not questioning the government’s existence.

The remarks from the North Carolina congressman and the Senate majority leader are far more troubling in this light. They have essentially dismissed and stereotyped any arguments from citizens who believe that the government is too powerful and spends too much money.

No one will be quicker to talk to you about the foundation of our federal government – the Constitution – than a TEA Party activist. TEA Party activists are not anti-government. They simply believe that the government should govern according to the rules set forth in the Constitution and not spend its citizens into massive debt.

Is that unreasonable? Definitely not.

Consider this fact. According to a Sept. 17 report from the Congressional Budget Office, “Between 2009 and 2012, the federal government recorded the largest budget deficits relative to the size of the economy since 1946, causing federal debt to soar.” The report goes on to say that federal debt is currently 73 percent of the U.S. economy’s annual output and, if current laws stay in place, the federal debt will make up 100 percent by 2038.

It is an understatement to say that this level of governmental debt is unreasonable. It is unlivable. At some point, the debt must be paid.

That is why the TEA Party movement emerged. Citizens became outraged at runaway spending – spending that they know has to be paid for. These citizens came together in groups all across North Carolina and the rest of the nation and said “we are taxed enough already!”

It is not unreasonable to believe that, in a recession, when families have to tighten household budgets, our lawmakers should be better stewards of the people’s money. Instead, the federal Office of Management and Budget projects that the federal government will spend $642 billion beyond revenues this year – money that the government does not have. On top of that, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has told Congress that the federal debt ceiling will be reached on Oct. 17. This debt has to be paid by someone – it will have to be paid by the people.

Reid seems to abide in the mindset that limiting the government’s power to the Constitution is tantamount to anarchy. And if Price believes that runaway spending and debt are a “reasonable solution,” then there should be serious questions about his decision-making skills.

The TEA Party is not anti-government. TEA Party activists are not anarchists. Anyone who says so is engaging in nothing less than demagoguery.

TEA Partyers simply want a government that operates within the constitutional limits of its power and doesn’t spend our grandchildren into debt. That is not an unreasonable request.

Donald Bryson of Garner is the policy specialist for Americans for Prosperity’s North Carolina chapter.

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