The Baby Boomers who comprise the majority of the Tea Party movement fondly recall the world of their youth; a world of cheap gasoline, muscle cars, rock ‘n roll, full employment and US world dominance. They want that world back. And they are convinced that the only thing standing between them and the world of their youth is a liberal, out-of-control government that wastes their money on freeloaders.
I have bad news for them. That world no longer exists. And it’s never coming back.
You see, following World War II, we were one of the few countries that had not suffered significant destruction. While much of Germany, Japan, Italy, France, Belgium, Poland, Great Britain and the Soviet Union had been flattened, the US was essentially unscathed. That led to unprecedented industrial production and wealth for the US. We produced an astounding 50 percent of the world’s goods and services…goods needed to rebuild much of the world. We held two-thirds of the world’s gold. And Americans were looking to the future by investing in education and infrastructure through increased tax rates.
For those in the US, life was good. Really good!
Now contrast that situation with today’s economy. Instead of making the materials to rebuild other nations, we must now compete with them. Instead of exporting manufactured goods, we have been exporting middle class jobs. Taxes are near 60-year lows, reducing revenues and forcing our government to borrow money in order to maintain our crumbling infrastructure. We are recovering from the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression and two unfunded wars. And, according to Teapublicans, it’s all the fault of President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The nostalgic world of the fifties and sixties was not the norm and never could be. Moreover, Americans got fat (literally) and lazy. We also got greedy. Instead of investing in our future, we cut taxes. Instead of maintaining our manufacturing base, our corporations became engaged in a race to the bottom looking for impoverished populations they could exploit in order to lower their labor costs. Instead of forcing multinational corporations to pay the true cost of energy and transportation, politicians enabled the export of jobs through government subsidies. And instead of promoting hard work and the American Dream, we eliminated estate taxes allowing the wealthy to create dynasties leading to unprecedented income disparity.
Truth is, today’s situation is the result of decades of bad political decisions…most originating during the Reagan administration. Doubling down on those policies, as the Tea Party demands, will not help. Instead of taking us back to the days of Leave It To Beaver, they’re more likely to take us back to the days of Oliver Twist and Scrooge.