Friday, May 27, 2011

Green Tea Party

Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it. (Henry David Thoreau)


There is no political party in American politics that represents my interests. In saying that, I realize I am joining a queue that grows longer each day. Some disgruntled Americans have identified themselves with a movement called The Tea Party, so called because its policies are as loose and random as raw tea leaves. There may be some affinity between the twenty-first century Tea Party and the Boston Tea Party of 1773. The eighteenth century protest action that came to be called the Boston Tea Party was a protest against the Tea Act, which lowered the taxes on tea imported from Britain, thereby driving down the price of tea to consumers. Lower British tea prices endangered the business of smugglers who had been making a handsome profit by smuggling Dutch tea into the colonies and selling it at lower prices than British tea fetched. Rowdies paid by the smugglers threw a shipload of British tea into the harbor, and greedy criminals have been rousing the rabble ever since against any governmental policy that threatens their interests by passing laws and regulations that benefit ordinary people. The twentieth century Tea Party movement follows that original model much too closely for my tastes. I have little use for it.

The twenty-first century Tea Party movement, insofar as it has any focus, seems to be interested primarily in wringing its hands over governmental spending that would benefit ordinary people rather than a handful of billionaires. The allegation of some of its followers is that such programs as Medicare and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act have the potential to bankrupt America and that they represent a governmental takeover of the healthcare system; apparently what the Tea Party Movers prefer is a continued takeover of the healthcare system by rapacious corporations that make fat profits by keeping the costs of poor-quality medical interventions artificially high. Be that as it may, one can have a certain amount of sympathy with the concern that the American government spends far more than it makes and is therefore running up a debt that could bring considerable inconvenience to future generations. If a concern with unsustainable levels of public debt is what makes one a Tea Party sympathizer, then I propose a new branch of the Tea Party that takes the interests of ordinary people and some of the better policies of the Green Party into account. Let's call this new movement The Green Tea Party.

The Platform

If a new political party hopes to sweep the nation in the next election cycle it needs a platform, which is a list of policies and promises that will be forgotten or ignored once the party gains power and finds itself besieged by highly paid and ruthlessly efficient lobbyists representing the major corporate interests that actually determine how the country will be run. The Green Tea Party's platform is still under construction, or it will be as soon as the planks and nails arrive. So far only one plank has come, but that's a start. As other planks and shims (and, of course, wedges) arrive, they will be announced in future posts to this blog site.

Balancing the budget

There is no hope of balancing any budget unless expenditures are equal to or less than income. A government's income is made up largely of various kinds of taxes and tariffs. Most reasonable people can be persuaded that it is to their advantage to pay taxes if the money raised is spent on programs that support the well-being of the population. For at least a century in the United States, governmental policies have resulted in spending that not only does not foster the well-being of the population but actually undermines it. The greatest single source of counterproductive spending is the military budget. Therefore, the most important bundle of expenditures to examine is the bundle resulting from the policies that result in the United States spending nearly half of all the money spent in the entire world on military enterprises.

The military is a twig on the executive branch of government. Its stated purpose is to defend the country. Arriving at a reasonable military budget requires coming to a clear understanding of what the United States needs to be defended against. Aside from natural events such as floods, hurricanes, tornados and earthquakes, the people of the United States are endangered by very little. No other nations are poised to invade the country and colonize it. (That has already been done by the Europeans, with quite a bit of involuntary help by African slaves.) The only human enemies that threaten to disturb the peace of Americans are those created by the unwelcome presence of the US military itself. The US has military bases in more than 130 countries. It also has a stockpile of expensive weaponry, some of it kept in the United States and some of it stored elsewhere, that could destroy most human life and that still costs a great deal of money to maintain. The Green Tea Party therefore recommends saving money by closing all military bases overseas, bringing all military personnel in foreign countries back to the United States, dismantling the entire arsenal of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, and reducing the army to a few thousand people trained to help victims of natural disasters. That would result in a reduction of government expenditures by about 35% of its current levels. If Wikipedia is anywhere near correct,
The U.S. Department of Defense budget accounted in fiscal year 2010 for about 19% of the United States federal budgeted expenditures and 28% of estimated tax revenues. Including non-DOD expenditures, defense spending was approximately 28–38% of budgeted expenditures and 42–57% of estimated tax revenues.
In addition to cuts in the military budget, The Green Tea Party recommends cutting all military aid to foreign countries and replacing it with non-military humanitarian aid to promote health and education in developing countries. This change would surely result in good will toward the United States, thereby reducing the resentment and hostility toward the country that has arisen through decades of interference in and exploitation of developing countries around the world.

It is imposible to take seriously any political party in the United States that does not make a dramatic reduction in the influence of the military a top priority. Some members of the other branch of the Tea Party (which, to distinguish it from the Green Tea Party shall henceforth be called the Black Tea Party or perhaps the Red Tea Party) agree that the current level of military expenditures are destroying the United States. In future postings, an attempt will be made to persuade them that the Green Tea Party has policies that make more sense than those of the Koch Brothers and other enthusiastic corporate sponsors of the Black Tea Party that have grown wealthy through entrepreneurship like that of the pirates in the eighteenth century who used to trade in stolen Dutch tea.