There’s a ton of chatter out there right now about how nutty the Tea Party is, most recently with 29 percent of voters saying Tea Party members are “economic terrorists.” Having returned to Pennsylvania just last year from Washington, D.C., I hear the chatter (and the confusion) more than most: Most of my friends in D.C., whatever their political views, have never met a real, live Tea Party member or gone to a Tea Party meeting. Working at the Commonwealth Foundation, I have done both many times, and so I’m often in the position of explaining “those people” and why I find them not weird, but wonderful—not perfectly atrocious, but profoundly American.
That’s why I was delighted to see CF supporter Nick Pandelidis’ op-ed in yesterday’s Harrisburg Patriot-News. As Nick points out, the facts show that the truly nutty position in today’s America is to think the status quo is sustainable, not to challenge it as the Tea Party is doing:
Could reasonable people accept the status quo? The national debt of $14 trillion equals our national GDP. Forty percent of this year’s spending is with borrowed dollars stolen from our children.
The 2011 budget deficit alone is 11 percent of GDP. That number pales compared to the estimated $200 trillion of unfunded liabilities that include Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and state and local deficit and retirement liabilities. Add to this the unknown massive liability of the new entitlement: Obamacare.
After an ill-conceived and wasteful stimulus, unemployment is more than 9 percent. Underemployment, those unemployed and those working below skill level and/or part time looking for full time, exceeds 20 percent. And that does not include another estimated 2 million-plus people who have given up looking for work.
The number of individuals who depend on the federal government for basic needs continues to grow. Forty-four million Americans are on food stamps, and 43 million, nearly one in seven, Americans live below the poverty level. More than 10 million people are on Social Security disability. Out of those individuals who filed 2009 federal income tax returns, nearly half paid no income tax.
The size of government continues to increase. Federal employees, excluding the military, now number an all-time high of 1.4 million. All told, there are 17.4 million federal, state and local government (including public school teachers) employees, most of whom have taxpayer-guaranteed salaries, benefits and defined retirement benefits, including health care.
Current levels of deficits, unfunded liabilities and government dependency are unsustainable. The radiant promise of America that brought our ancestors to our shores for the opportunity to work hard and earn a better life for self and family is but a dim glimmer for our children and grandchildren.
The tea party movement was the spontaneous uprising and protest of ordinary tax-paying citizens to this specter of our children being left with a less prosperous and less free America.
Amen to that, Nick. It’s our privilege here at CF to help you and others who are challenging the unacceptable—indeed, nutty—status quo in Harrisburg and Washington and demanding a return to fiscal sanity.