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Inside the Mind of the Tea Party

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Inside the Mind of the Tea Party

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Tea partiers believe economy is god.

I’ve heard Tea Partiers called anarchists because of their antagonism to government, but I disagree. Tea Partiers simply don’t believe that a strong federal government is the best way to organize society. They believe the free market should be left alone to distribute the necessities of life to those who deserve them. And to those who don’t deserve them? Tough luck.
    
The Tea Party’s faith in the market -- and it is a faith -- is deeper than a simple belief that it should be the vehicle for distributing economic benefits. Tea Partiers believe the marketplace is a moral arbiter that punishes the weak and the indolent, while rewarding the strong and the industrious. In the libertarian mind of the Tea Party, a person’s financial worth is equal to his worth as a human being. It’s a secular form of the Calvinist belief that material wealth are proof of membership in God’s elect.

 According to political scientist Chip Berlet:

Calvinists also believe that “God’s divine providence [has] selected, elected, and predestined certain people to restore humanity and reconcile it with its Creator.” These “Elect” were originally thought to be the only people going to Heaven. To the Calvinists, material success and wealth was a sign that you were one of the Elect, and thus were favored by God. Who better to shepherd a society populated by God’s wayward children? The poor, the weak, the infirm? God was punishing them for their sins.

Any system of rewards must be accompanied by a system of punishments. During the Florida Tea Party presidential debate, I was less shocked than most viewers to hear audience members shout “Yes!” when moderator Wolf Blitzer asked the candidates whether a 30-year-old without health insurance should be allowed to die. To Tea Partiers, lacking health insurance is not a misfortune. It is a moral failing. And as St. Paul wrote, the wages of sin is death. Sorry. Better luck next life. When the government steps in to protect people from the consequences of their careless behavior, that throws the scales of justice out of whack.  

The Tea Party movement had its origins in outrage over the federal bailout of Wall Street banks and auto companies. As with Blitzer’s apocryphal 30-year-old, Tea Partiers believed the government should have allowed the market to take its course, and allowed those businesses to die. Because if they hadn’t done something wrong, they wouldn’t have been in financial trouble.

That’s also why Rep. Joe Walsh opposed extending unemployment benefits and complained that President Obama’s jobs speech was unnecessary.

“The president shouldn’t go before Congress every time someone skins their knee,” he said.

No. The person with the skinned knee should get up and put a bandage on it. Because to Tea Partiers, the problem isn’t unemployment. The problem is the unemployed.

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