Saturday, February 13 , 2016, 8:01 pm | Fair 52º

Joe Conason: Lies of the Tea Party

Mischaracterizations about the health-care bill and economic stimulus only fuel fear

By Joe Conason |

For Americans still suffering from persistent unemployment, falling incomes and rising inequality, politicians of either party probably generate little enthusiasm. Although political ennui is understandable, the disaffection and demoralization of Democrats have created a dangerous political vacuum that is being filled with misleading data, urban legends and outright lies.

Joe Conason
Joe Conason

Indeed, the entire Tea Party movement was founded on false assumptions about the economic program that probably saved the country from a second Great Depression.

The nascent protests that came to be known as the Tea Party began as angry populist rants against the Troubled Asset Relief Program, that notorious “bailout” of drowning banks and insurance companies, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the “stimulus program.”

Red-faced traders and furious housewives joined forces against what they wrongly called “socialism,” warning that our freedom was endangered, and that the nation might soon perish under burgeoning inflation and draconian regulation. They grew even more frantic when the Obama administration directed hundreds of billions of dollars in TARP funds toward the auto industry in loans and shares — more socialism!

The real reason behind the irritation of the traders and their spokesmen on cable television was simple enough. The government had restricted their usual obscene bonuses in recognition of the fact that they had been saved by taxpayer funds from their own gross misconduct — and should be not be rewarded for surviving on the teat.

As for the Tea Party housewives and their cohorts, the motives ranged from xenophobia to paranoia. But as the recovery lagged — and the Obama White House failed to communicate its aims and achievements — those typical symptoms of right-wing delusion showed up in a broader segment of the voting public.

In the meantime, the Republicans and their allies in the media managed to mischaracterize President Barack Obama’s health-care reform bill as both a “government takeover” and a gift to the health insurance industry, although in reality it was neither. Most Americans who say they dislike the bill have very little knowledge of its actual provisions — which are quite popular when polled individually.

The average voter is equally unlikely to know the essential facts about the preservation of auto companies, the stimulus package or TARP — which was approved with the votes of the same Republican leaders they may soon promote into the majority.

Nonpartisan experts both within and outside government have said for months that TARP not only saved the country from untold economic disaster, but that its repayments and warrants will end up as highly profitable investments. The auto industry isn’t quite as sure to prosper as the banks, of course, but there is a reasonable likelihood that the government will make money on those investments, too — while preserving a vital industry and millions of jobs.

As for the stimulus, economists across the ideological spectrum have contradicted the popular perception — promoted by Tea Party publicists — that the program didn’t work and may even have done harm. The Republicans insist that government can’t create jobs and that public expenditure only “crowds out” private-sector investment.

But contrary to that Chamber of Commerce mythology, the private sector is sitting on more than $3 trillion, in banks and corporate accounts, that is not being invested because of insufficient demand. Rather than the rampant inflation predicted by the Tea Party ideologues, we have seen no real inflation — because demand is still insufficient to reinflate the economy. The Obama stimulus program was enough to prevent the complete deflation that might have led to a depression, but not enough to begin a full recovery in employment.

The same conservatives who now claim that President Obama’s program didn’t work are those who once warned that President Bill Clinton’s program would lead to ruin — just before the greatest peacetime expansion in history. Believe them at your peril.

Joe Conason writes for the New York Observer. Click here for more information, or click here to contact him.

» on 09.30.10 @ 10:10 PM

Description of a Tea Party rally in Louisville, Kentucky:
“Scanning the thousands of hopped-up faces in the crowd, I am immediately struck by two things. One is that there isn’t a single black person here. The other is the truly awesome quantity of medical hardware: Seemingly every third person in the place is sucking oxygen from a tank or propping their giant atrophied glutes on motorized wheelchair-scooters…”

“A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on Sarah Palin, vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can’t imagine it.”

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

» on 10.01.10 @ 12:57 AM

November 2…cya there Joe.

» on 10.01.10 @ 01:03 AM

Aren’t you infamous stalking emptynewsroom?  Wow showing yourself after that beat down Thurston gave you. I see you made bail.

» on 10.01.10 @ 01:33 AM

Here’s a tip for people not wanting the public to know that they and their companies have been featured on Make sure that the company names on your LinkedIn profile aren’t IDENTICAL to those accused of cheating people on Ripoff Report, especially when they mention you by NAME. Word to the wise. Also, just denying something doesn’t make it true.

» on 10.01.10 @ 03:18 AM

Hey emptyhead.  Just watching over your antics as usual.  I’ll tell you what son. Give us a post with a link to Dan Petry showing him on some site called Ripoff Report.

» on 10.01.10 @ 07:04 PM

This is my first time commenting. I felt that I needed to comment since I went back and researched the historical comments placed by this person who calls themselves emptynewsroom. I’m a medical doctor who specializes in addictive personalities. Emptynewsroom is totally disconnected from reality. They exhibit a seriously high level of narcissism combined with violently delusional trends. This is the type of person that we find involved with crimes of extreme violence towards others all rationalized under a guise of protecting some destructive philosophy. Their willingness to obsess on one individual for their anger poses a threat to both themselves and that particular person. In this case Mr. Petry. Of which this person has commented on repeatedly outside of any aspect of the comment tread. They are a danger and these types of venues tend to amplify their anger. I strongly suggest they get help.

» on 10.01.10 @ 09:12 PM

Great column, Joe. I’m going sailing for three or four days while the weather holds so you might have to live without my posts until next week. You all have a wonderful weekend.

» on 10.01.10 @ 09:47 PM

So now we have a ” medical doctor” giving online diagnoses of those who differ in opinion with the Petryfied puppet gallery .  Good grief ! Such intuition !
  Emptynewsroom is “violently delusional” ?!?  Why? Because he points out that the F.B.I. is watching armed , anti government hotheads ?
  Does the good “doctor” feel that emptynewsroom is somehow more of a threat than Petry , the resident pied piper of rightwingnuts? The ” doctor” might be well served to review Petry’s past comments where he has threatened violence if he is displeased by election results. Or maybe the “doctor” could tell us what he thinks about Petry’s comment about Barney Franks ” taking it from behind “.  Another good one is the fairy tale of him having an African American girlfriend who doesn’t mind him calling President Obama a ” boy” . How about it , ” doc” ?

» on 10.02.10 @ 03:50 AM

That’s the problem with DUIs empty. Gotta serve the time.

» on 10.02.10 @ 05:07 AM

Actually emptynewsroom does need help. Sorry if that upsets you but if you know this person they do need some help.

» on 10.02.10 @ 05:16 AM

Hey empty. Doc is right your are delusional. This guy Joe writes out of New York and I can guarantee you that he has neither read your comments or cares about how you are spending your weekend. Whew.

» on 10.02.10 @ 02:35 PM

“Doctor David , would you be so kind as to provide us some of the comments made by empty that led you to your “diagnoses”?

» on 10.03.10 @ 03:11 PM

No need Willie. We all know Empty’s condition all to well. I feel for the guy because every time he sticks his head out of his mother’s basement he gets the smack down. It’s rather embarrassing.

You however I expect more out of and recently you have become a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong I still enjoy the fact that a couple of the vast numbers of progressive liberals in this town still have the balls to comment but your rhetoric has become diluted by the stupid DNC talking point crap and a penchant for personal attack rather than going after differences in ideology. Don’t care about the personal stuff its all deflection but when that is all you have it gets boring.

Now as for this latest rant by Joey. Still more dopy junk journalism. The guy cannot honestly argue any of the tea parties platforms because he has not bothered to find out what they really are. Instead he like so many liberal/progressives today he has become intellectually lazy and just totes the DNC ready made BS produced line.
The only thing that pops out of his article is that if you don’t see how brilliant Obama is and how wonderful liberal/progressivism is then you are too stupid.

Ah, Joey when ever you try to explain your wonderful ideology and its representative, Obama, you never convince anyone of its greatness because it isn’t. And we understand why and it is you who doesn’t get it.

Empty has done a brilliant job of bringing this phenomenon to light by always ending his hapless arguments by saying “well the other western nations all do it, so it must be good!” Or here’s a good one “it works over there so it would work over here”, ah, yes but do you nit wits actually know what IT is?
We have tried to explain the differences between capitalism and socialism, between economic growth and mere redistribution. We have tried to explain what it means to have a very large and powerfully backed government take more and more control away from people but you always seem to think it’s a war between big government backed by military power, the courts, police and law and big corporations which have, what, money, influence, and lobbyists? Wow I’ll pit my money backed lobbyists against your most powerful military in the world any day, huh?

Get a clue. Yes having wealth redistributed to few hands is not any better than redistributing it to those who did not earn it but giving the government more power is NOT the way to solve the problem and you are fools to think it is. Just go ask the Russians how that philosophy worked for them. In fact read a damned history book once in a while and see how many times giving government more power actually worked best for the people. Hmmm, rather slim pickings out there. Oops, there are none. Hmmm! Well what to do!

We can bring a multinational corporation to its knees with our wallet, if you idiots would ever realize how much power that free market gives you. But unless you use your brains and vote intelligently you will only empower and enable a really large bloated and power hungry government which will, as history dictates, turn on you in the end.

» on 10.03.10 @ 04:30 PM

Well said AN50. The intellectual level of progressive discourse has gone down hasn’t it?  I guess they are just tired of defending current and historically bankrupt policies. November 2!!

» on 10.04.10 @ 01:04 AM

I like the way you think AN50. I don’t think Joe has a clue about
  the Tea Party Movement.


» on 10.07.10 @ 01:39 AM

“I’m a medical doctor…”
Right. LOL.

» on 10.07.10 @ 12:01 PM

Have you ever wondered why your wife prefers you to live on your keyboard. We girls know the answer to that don’t we ladies.

» on 10.10.10 @ 04:27 PM

Cindy, Cindy, Cindy, you girls are a riot! Lol kiddo, you nailed another one.

» on 10.11.10 @ 02:01 PM

Cindy, Cindy, Cindy, you girls are a riot! We’re going to anoint you Court Jester of the Merry Band of Right Wing Idiots! Please continue keeping us in stitches until we can install another GOP criminal cabal in the White House capable of ripping off the taxpayer and destroying the nation simultaneously.

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