RALEIGH – If the Tea Party movement consists of a bunch of extremists, prone to violence and potty mouths as Obama partisans and the clueless news media have been trying to assert over the past week, then I guess that means most Americans are extremists, too.
You see, most voters agree with the tenets and activism of the Tea Party movement. They think ObamaCare will be disastrous and want it repealed and replaced with a real reform plan. They think taxes are too high, not too low. They think the federal government’s massive operating deficits and its nearly $100 trillion in unfunded entitlement liabilities are not an economic stimulus, as liberals apparently believe, but represent a clear and present danger to American prosperity and to representative government itself.
Tea Party activists believe that members of Congress are secretive, corrupt, and out of touch. According to a new Rasmussen Research survey, the American public agrees. While only 30 percent of respondents believe that the average member of Congress has a better understanding of the issues facing the country than the average Tea Party activist, 52 percent of likely U.S. voters see it the other way – that the average Tea Party activist has a better understanding of the issues than the average member of Congress.
If you think that average Americans informing themselves, exercising their rights, and challenging the pretensions of an unpopular class of reckless politicians are properly thought of as extremists, that says more about you than it says about them. It suggest that you are the extremist.
As for the rest of us, we see the Tea Party movement as a grassroots explosion of righteous anger and resolute activism. We see it as a portent of the political future. We see it as a last, great hope for preventing America from abandoning its constitutional traditions of individual liberty and limited government – and descending into a European-style welfare state that will sap our economic vitality and curtail our freedom.
Whether you like the Tea Party movement or not, you’re going to hear more about it in the coming weeks. Last April, dozens of spontaneously organized Tea Party organizations held rallies in communities across North Carolina to protest the fiscal irresponsibility of their elected officials in Raleigh and Washington. This year, from what I’m hearing and seeing, there will be another round of Tea Party protests on or around April 15th – sending the message that ObamaCare is unacceptable, that spending America into bankruptcy is unacceptable, and that we will not let the political activism of millions of concerned Americans be smeared by biased and credulous news reporting.
Here in North Carolina, the steps necessary to restrain and reform our government aren’t hard to formulate:
• No more job-killing taxes. Policymakers need to balance state and local budgets by setting firm priorities and focusing scarce resources on government’s core responsibilities.
• No more job-killing regulations. North Carolina should impose new rules on private economic activity only when the expected health or safety benefits exceed the expected costs, and when there is no less-restrictive alternative that can accomplish the same goal.
• Subject services to competition. Rather than throwing more money into government education or health care monopolies, North Carolina should give its citizens more power to choose the services that best meet their needs – and private firms more freedom to compete for willing business without undue burdens and restrictions.
• Embrace innovation. Rather than assuming that North Carolina needs to do the same old things the same old way, we should welcome new technologies and organizational forms – including the consolidation of state agencies, the expansion of distance learning, and the use of new ways to design, build, operate, and pay for the infrastructure North Carolina needs to sustain growth.
Be it at the federal, state, or local levels, the problems that currently plague us cannot be solved simply by taxing more, spending more, and borrowing more. In the coming weeks, thousands of North Carolinians will take to the streets – both in their own communities and in their state and national capitals – to send this message clearly to the political class.
Perhaps this time the message will be heard.
Hood is president of the John Locke Foundation