If personal attacks are the last defense against a lost argument, the Tea Party should be appreciating its success these days. Union leaders, political commentators and even elected officials have with increased frequency and intensity resorted to name-calling and even consigning us to hell. We've been likened to terrorists, Nazis and the Klan. A new video game even challenges players to blow away well-known and anonymous Tea Party "zombies." So much for more civil discourse. But in all of this, where's the beef? Where are the rational arguments against the Tea Party issues?
If the 2008 presidential election was decided on the issue of the economy, the 2012 election will hinge on that issue even more so. Yesteryear's message of "hope and change" has given way to one of competence, experience and realistic action. In short, we look for a leader who inspires confidence to lead America in creating a job-friendly economy. Tea Partyers, even with their diversity, agree that the three-part solution is relatively simple and quite mainstream.
First is the belief that the American people know best how to create an economy that works - not a distant government bureaucracy. Limited government has allowed us to do so for centuries. While politicians often campaign on that idea, for many, the rare air of Washington intoxicates them with the idea bigger must be better.
The federal government serves a purpose, but its powers are limited by the Constitution and common sense: "That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves," wrote Thomas Jefferson. Recognizing that, the Founding Fathers empowered the states - closer to both the problems and the potential solutions - to more effectively respond.
Governments may be well meaning, but it is small-business owners, investors and entrepreneurs who create lasting and meaningful jobs that strengthen the economy and society. The solution is to empower people by limiting bureaucracy, reducing over-regulation, and reforming the corporate tax code. Such reforms will open up economic growth in myriad areas: trade, manufacturing and energy, both traditional and green.
If this first principle is exercised, the second will follow: Government must spend only what it earns. This is called fiscal responsibility. Both parties have lost sight of the truth, which has led to unrestrained borrowing, a faltering economy, indebtedness of untold future generations, and a compromised national security and sovereignty. Government can no more spend its way out of debt than can an American family. The overspending family - and nation - that tries will ultimately collapse under its own weight, taken over by its creditors. Government must limit its spending to the money it brings in through taxes and other revenues.
Who pays those taxes? It is individuals in family units, which form the backbone of society. Thus, the third principle requires that government actions must be family friendly. Under current economic conditions, however, families are suffering. Two specific actions in this area would help:
First, the individual tax code must be reformed to ensure more take-home pay, which will both keep families viable and ultimately return money to the economy. While Americans may differ on which specific solution is best, most agree the current system requires immediate reform.
Second, it's time to reform entitlement and social spending programs. Fundamental to such reform is recognition that honest societies must keep the promises made to their citizens and compassionate societies must have a safety net for those in need. Government's dual obligation is to honor its commitments to those who have paid into those systems and are counting on those funds and yet not overpromise what it cannot deliver.
To fulfill these obligations, Social Security and Medicare require long-term solutions. As for social safety nets, which must exist to help those unable to care for themselves, private providers such as religious and community organizations serve these functions more effectively than government. Government's proper role in both of these is to assist individuals rather than hinder their efforts through unnecessary regulation and restrictions.
These are simple ideas that grew out of America's core principles of limited government, fiscal responsibility and family sustainability. Vile epitaphs notwithstanding, these Tea Party proposals are nothing to fear. In fact, they are mainstream, with polls showing the American public in agreement with each of these concepts.
Suffice it to say the hope and change promised four years ago has brought us no closer to economic recovery and only deeper in debt. Despite differing preferences on individual candidates and the details of certain proposals, the Tea Party's vision embraces hope and change as well: hope that change is soon forthcoming, with new leadership willing to embrace tried-and-true concepts, such as limited constitutional government, fiscal responsibility and family-friendly policies. In the end, successful results will trump personal attacks every time.
John M. Bell is a retired military officer and member of the San Antonio Tea Party Board of Directors.
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