Darian Warren at Colorlines has an interesting answer to the question, What is behind the loathing of big government that the Tea Party has brought to the center of US politics? You can get to his answer by asking yourself where the claims about states’ rights start to become very vocal.
Of course, that’s when southern states opposed government regulations that would deprive them of slave labor. Keeping government small, Warren claims, is about maintaining the exploitation of black labor and opposing any social amelioration of the resulting injustices.
I think it’s very tempting to respond by pointing out that an anti-big-government sentitment starts with the founding of the country; it begins as a resistance to the idea of having a king, and not as a plan to preserve slavery. But this response probably misunderstands the issues raised, which are about the present sentiment. If the Tea Party is really just against a large government, where were they during the presidency of GW Bush?
Thinking about the possibly more subtle racism behind the Tea Party also offers a perspective on the mixed blessing of Obama’s speech today on the budget. Against most economists, he has agreed that the deficit is a really, really bad thing. But at least he did also say (from the NY Times):
“There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires,” Mr. Obama said of budget proposals put forward by Republicans in the House. “There’s nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill. And this is not a vision of the America I know.”
I’m not sure what we should finally think about Warren’s idea, but it does offer a solution to a puzzle. Why does the white fear that is so obviously fueling the Tea Party end up with bad economic ideas about cutting spending when the economy is still so fragile? The answer is that it isn’t directly about economics.
And then there’s Mitch McConnell of Kentuky, Senate minority leader:
… too often, it seems, Democrats in Washington claim to be interested in helping those in need, when what they really seek is to protect big government.
What do you think?