Friday, September 17, 2010

Is The Tea Party Movement Lengthening The Recession?

Is The Tea Party Movement Lengthening The Recession? 
Dr. Jason Johnson 

Last week the new employment news was not great. Unemployment jumped from 9.5 to 9.6 percent, the average unemployed American hasn’t had a job for over 27 weeks and the dreaded “double-dip” recession might be upon us. Of course in the midst of this financial malaise political leaders and pundits are trying to find the culprit. Why is it that we’re still stuck in the mud when it comes to the economy? Who isn’t pulling their weight?

While Bush, Obama, and Goldman Sachs are some of the biggest culprits, I nominate one of the newest antagonists to our nation’s economic growth: The National Tea Party movement.

First, let’s deal with the non-subjective facts. This is the longest recession in American history that was not associated with the Great Depression. As far as most economists are concerned, the recession officially began in 2007 but for normal people it really began sometime in mid-2005. A recession is when the economy begins slowing down, and many in the mid-west and northeastern parts of the country started to feel that slowdown pretty soon after Bush was re-elected. It took another few years before the housing crisis and Wall Street started to hit hotspots like Phoenix Arizona, Austin, Texas and Atlanta.

As far as I’m concerned once people started having to calculate the cost of groceries versus the cost of gas they’d spent to drive to the store we were in a recession.

Much of American economic growth is about attitude. When people are optimistic, they spend money and the economy improves. When they are worried they spend less and the economy tanks. Even when your personal financial situation is good, if you see nothing but screaming angry people on the air, it makes people hesitant to spend.

So Tea Party members with their constant whining about healthcare, the president’s faith and the fact that he’s black have so dominated the press and made public discourse so toxic that they’re bumming out the rest of the nation and further slowing the economy. It’s like when you finally think you’re getting out of a traffic jam only to see the progress is being held up by two guys arguing in the middle of the street holding up traffic. That’s what the Tea Party is doing, holding up economic traffic by monopolizing public discourse on non-essential issues and depressing the public.

And let’s be clear, the Tea Partiers are not your average Americans speaking out for the common man. CBS, New York Times and Gallup polls of their demographics have shown that they are better off than your average American, yet are more pessimistic about the future. The Tea Party movement is composed primarily of white men with college educations over the age of 45. Further, they are more likely than your average American to report their personal financial situation to be ‘good or great’ AND have salaried jobs. These are the same folks who went out and bought SUVs when Bush asked them to stimulate the economy, and spent their ‘tax refund’ checks on new dining room sets. Now they’re hoarding cash, buying up gold from Glenn Beck and pulling out of the economy right and left because they can’t stand the president. And the rest of Americans reeling from the real recession are getting gun shy about spending having seen these people rant and rave for the last 18 months.

When you consider that those who are active in the Tea Party movement are about 4 percent of the U.S. population, that is a fairly significant number of people to have refusing to participate in the economy. No one is happy about this recession, and many in public office are doing whatever they can to get the nation back on its feet. However, we’ll never get there as a nation if those of us who are relatively better off spend our time complaining and tuning out rather than getting involved and spending and engaging.

One has to wonder what would’ve happened if everyone who went to Glenn Beck’s Tea Party event in Washington D.C. had taken all the money they spent flying or driving to D.C. and instead took their families out to dinner at a local restaurant or spent the day at the mall. It’s in all of our power to help dig this economy out of the doldrums, and it’s high time for the Tea Partiers to stop their whining and pick up a shovel like the rest of us. 

(Dr. Jason Johnson is an associate professor of political science and communications at Hiram College in Ohio, where he teaches courses in campaigns and elections, pop culture, and the politics of sports. He can be reached at

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1 comment:

---Alisha said...

Tea Party protests are a good thing
(By Roland S. Martin)

Those who disagree with Tea Party should demonstrate to air their views

(CNN) -- An angry bunch of Americans has taken to the streets to protest government spending and the direction of the nation, and judging by the massive media coverage, it's as if we have been invaded by a foreign entity, marching on state capitals and Washington ready to lead a coup d'état against our elected officials.

The rise of the Tea Party is being chronicled as a threat to democracy, or a grassroots collective unlike anything we have seen many many years.

First, let's deal with the Tea Party haters. Please, shut up. How can any liberal, progressive, moderate or conservative be mad about a group of Americans taking to the streets to protest the actions of the country? What they are engaged in is constitutional. The freedom to assemble, march, walk, scream and yell is right there in the document we all abide by.

Do I object to idiots holding up clearly racist signs, as well as the stupidity of images of President Obama as Hitler? Of course. That ignorance detracts from whatever commentary they are trying to make on the status of the nation.

But it's clear that most of the folks attending Tea Party rallies are not bigots and homophobes. There are ignorant fools in all groups,

If anyone wants to oppose the Tea Party for spreading misinformation, do that. But to assert that it's wrong to take part in civic engagement is utterly silly. The best of this country came out of the action of those in the streets.

For those who oppose the Tea Party, you have every right to gather with those who agree with you and take to the streets. If they oppose the policies of President Obama, and you support them, demonstrate your support for his agenda. Don't whine about someone else making noise. Men and women, stand up and be heard.

And if you want to oppose the Tea Party, do so on the facts. It's laughable when a Tea Partier laments taxes in the U.S. when, for the middle class, they are virtually at their lowest level in more than 50 years.

To suggest that 95 percent of Americans didn't get a tax cut in President Obama's first year is just dead wrong to oppose the president's agenda.

I more than welcome the Tea Party folks. Protesting is America at its finest. But I'm also not fooled one bit by them.

They are a rowdy, loud and forceful bunch filled largely with Republicans who oppose the policies of the president. Nothing wrong with that. There were a bunch of rowdy, loud and forceful liberals and progressives taking to the streets to oppose the policies of President George W. Bush.

Folks, this isn't a radical transformation of the nation shaping up. It's the latest effort by citizens primarily in one party or professing one ideology to rise up and allow their voices to be heard. And that's a good