Matt Taibbi Gets It And Misses It

Posted by | October 30, 2010 16:21 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

Matt Taibbi who recently wrote a brilliant expose on the Tea Party is now working on a book and excerpted it yesterday at Daily Kos.  However, I think he only has part of the problem right.  The part he has right is the criticism of the leaders of the Tea Party:

By rallying behind dingbats like Palin and Michele Bachmann—the Minnesota congresswoman who thought the movie Aladdin promoted witchcraft and insisted global warming wasn’t a threat because “carbon dioxide is natural”—the Tea Party has made anti-intellectualism itself a rallying cry.

But I don’t really buy all of his criticism of the followers:

If you want to understand why America is such a paradise for high-class thieves, just look at the way a manufactured movement like the Tea Party corrals and neutralizes public anger that otherwise should be sending pitchforks in the direction of downtown Manhattan.

This has echoes of the “What’s The Matter With Kansas” argument of Thomas Frank.  Frank argued that Middle America voted against its economic interests because they were manipulated using “God, guns and gays” as issues.

But, why is it a problem that people vote against their economic interests?  I vote for politicians that will raise my taxes because of my conception of a just and fair society.  I’m not being naive for doing so and neither are those who place other things above their own economic interests (which in the case of the Tea Party includes an odd concept of liberty and perhaps some racial issues discussed by Taibbi).

Instead the problems are twofold.  First, some of the values held by Tea Partiers are ones some of us find morally wrong (anti-gay sentiment, anti-immigration sentiment).  Second, the Republicans won’t do anything to advance the causes that the Tea Party is valuing more than their economic interests.  Gay rights advanced during the past two decades.  Republicans did little more than pay lip service to social issues for 25 years.  And you can be sure that government will be grown under Republican rule if they get the reins of government back.  It will just be grown to protect the interests of powerful businesses.  Just like it always does under Republicans.

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Copyright 2010 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.

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