Skip to comments.Column: Here’s What Teatopia Would Look Like
Posted on 06/20/2014 10:37:21 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
What exactly does the Tea Party movement want? Other than bringing three-cornered hats, powdered wigs, and knee breeches back in style, that is.
If every Republican squish in Congress were booted out of office and replaced by a doughty defender of our constitutional freedoms, what kind of laws would this purer, more authentically conservative GOP pass, and which government programs would it dismantle? If FDR gave us the New Deal and LBJ gave us the Great Society, how would President Rand Paul or President Ted Cruz seek to transform American life?
No one really knows. But it is a question that comes to mind after the shocking defeat of Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va. It is not particularly likely that well see unified Tea Party control of the government any time soon. It is nevertheless useful to think through what a Teatopia might look like.
One reason it is challenging to describe Teatopia is that Republicans who identify with the Tea Party movement are diverse in their ideological inclinations. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., is an idiosyncratic libertarian in the Ron Paul mold, and he has never met a U.S. military intervention hes liked. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is a modernizing reformer type who wants to make government smaller and smarter, and hes a flag-waving believer in a Pax Americana foreign policy. Some Tea Party conservatives favor limiting immigration, including Dave Brat, the economist who vaulted to fame by besting Cantor. Others, including the deep-pocketed Koch brothers, believe that welcoming immigrants of all shapes, sizes and skill levels is a bedrock principle of Americanism. If the Tea Party ever seized power, perhaps its members would, like founding fathers Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, settle their disagreements in a series of duels.
Deep divisions notwithstanding, there are a number of principles that unite the movement. The most important of them is a devotion to subsidiarity, which holds that power should rest as close to ordinary people as possible. In practice, this leads Tea Party conservatives to favor voluntary cooperation among free individuals over local government, local government over state government, and state government over the federal government. Teatopia would in some respects look much like our own America, only the contrasts would be heightened. California and New York, with their dense populations and liberal electorates, would have even bigger state governments that provide universal pre-K, a public option for health insurance and generous funding for mass transit. They might even have their own immigration policies, which would be more welcoming toward immigrants than the policies the country as a whole would accept.
More conservative states, meanwhile, would compete to go furthest and fastest in abandoning industrial-era government. Traditional urban school districts would become charter districts, in which district officials would provide limited oversight while autonomous networks of charter schools would make the decisions about how schools are run day to day. Parents would be given K-12 spending accounts, which could be spent on the services provided by local public schools and on a range of other educational services, from online tutoring to apprenticeships designed to provide young people with marketable skills.
On transportation, Teatopia would borrow from governments in Australia and New Zealand, where roads are owned and operated by public road enterprises that make spending and investment decisions on the basis of consumer demand rather than political imperatives. Social welfare policies would be crafted with local sensibilities in mind, and theyd have a different character in communitarian Utah than they would in libertarian Texas.
The goal of Tea Party federalism is not for states to serve as laboratories of democracy, in which programs that work in Houston are eventually adopted across the country by dint of federal pressure. State governments wouldnt serve as a kind of minor-league farm system for the big leagues in Washington, D.C. Rather, the goal would be for different states to offer different visions of the good life. Citizens would vote with their feet in favor of the social-democratic societies that would emerge in Vermont and the Bay Area or the laissez-faire societies that would emerge in large stretches of the Mountain West. The Tea Party movement sees this approach as the best way to honor and reflect what you might call Americas normative diversity a diversity that has less to do with ethnicity and race and more to do with the virtues that we as communities want to see reflected in our collective institutions.
Are there problems with this kind of ultra-federalism, and would it be challenging to get from here to there? Of course. Back in 1976, when Ronald Reagan challenged Gerald Ford for the GOP presidential nomination, Ford mocked Reagan for his plan to devolve large swathes of government from the federal government to the states. His main point was that even if Reagan succeeded in drastically reducing the size of the federal government and cutting federal taxes, all hed succeed in doing is to force state governments to raise their taxes so that they could continue offering the same services. Reagan didnt have a particularly snappy response, which is a big part of why he didnt defeat Ford. To Tea Party conservatives, however, Reagan was right on the money: We should live in a country where more of our taxes go to state governments than to the federal government, as it is a heck of a lot easier to move from one state to another that better reflects our political beliefs than to move from one country to another.
This is all very nice in theory. To get to Teatopia, wed have to revisit the fact that almost all states are subject to balanced budget requirements, which are a big part of why state governments have lost ground to the federal government over the years, particularly during recessions. But remember: Were talking about the Tea Partys long-term vision, whether or not its particularly realistic.
The robust federalism of Teatopia would, in the Tea Party imagination, at least, lead to bipartisan peace in the nations capital. Todays Era of Bad Feelings, as the National Reviews Ramesh Ponnuru describes the last decade and a half of American politics, would be replaced by an Era of Good Feelings as the federal government shrinks. Crony capitalists seeking handouts and favors would be forced to decamp from D.C. to state capitals around the country, and in particular to the states that decide to maintain and expand corporate subsidies, targeted tax breaks and other giveaways.
What is left of the federal government would focus on either winding down the large federal programs that are the chief legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society, or transforming them into barebones platforms that state governments could build on if they chose to do so. Social Security, for example, could be transformed into a universal pension, a la New Zealand, where everyone over the retirement age receives a flat benefit designed to eliminate poverty among seniors. As an added bonus, this much smaller Social Security program could be financed by a smaller payroll tax, or some other funding source. State governments, meanwhile, could create their own add-on retirement benefits.
The federal role in health insurance could go in a few different directions. Virtually all Tea Party conservatives favor repealing Obamacare. In a post-Obamacare world, Medicare, Medicaid and the tax subsidy for employer-sponsored health insurance could gradually be turned into defined contribution programs, with the federal government kicking in a fixed amount of cash for each beneficiary. State and local governments could find creative ways to spend their Medicaid money wisely, and spend more if they see fit. But a small number of Tea Party fellow-travelers, led by Avik Roy of the Manhattan Institute, are making the case that the right ought to use the Obamacare exchanges to their advantage. By deregulating the exchanges, putting most Medicare beneficiaries on the exchanges, and raising the Medicare eligibility age, thus keeping older Americans on the exchanges for longer, Roy believes that the federal government could drastically reduce the growth of federal spending.
Again, the fundamental idea is to allow states and local governments to let their freak flags fly to let San Francisco be as left-wing as it wants to be, and to let Colorado Springs be as right-wing as it wants to be.
And for better or for worse, Teatopia would be far less bellicose than our own America. This week, Michael F. Cannon and Christopher A. Preble of the libertarian Cato Institute, a think tank that has a great deal of street cred in the Tea Party movement, offered an ingenious proposal in The New York Times. Instead of having the federal government provide health and disability benefits to veterans directly, they propose a system of prefunded veterans benefits. Military personnel would be given enough additional pay to purchase benefits at actuarially fair rates from private insurers. If war is looming, it is a safe bet that private insurers would jack up their rates to account for the fact that service members would face an elevated risk of death and dismemberment. Suddenly the federal government would have to pay for its war-waging ways even before the first shot is fired. Masking the long-term costs of military interventions would no longer be an option, and conservative voters would be far more skeptical about the use of military force if they could clearly see that it all but guaranteed higher taxes.
I have mixed feelings about Teatopia. There are aspects of it that I find very attractive. Yet there are other aspects that, as an old-school sentimental American nationalist, give me pause. What I can say is that the Tea Party movement does indeed have a distinctive vision, which will come into sharper focus in the years to come. The Tea Party is not some temporary aberration that will seamlessly blend into the conservative establishment in a few years. It is a real movement, and as America grows more diverse, and as American politics grows more contentious, it will grow.
Reihan Salam, a Slate columnist, also writes for the National Review.
Reagan and Ford balloting went on until after midnight, and the count ended up Ford 1187, Reagan 1070, that was for the party nomination with the GOPe against him, the media against him, and Ford being the sitting President of the United States.
bttt for tomorrow when I can post some before and after California cities pictures.
I’m guessing the author either wasn’t alive then or was in short pants, at best.
He nailed it.
In California occasionally cities get Republican leadership and immediately cut taxes. All this does is shift the tax burden toward the state. That's basically what happened with Prop. 13. Property taxes are normally the main source of income for cities, but with Prop. 13, property taxes essentially moved under state control.
Republicans want to have their cake and eat it too: low taxes at whatever level they control and government services from those levels they don't.
Let’s see, all that Liberal Fictional Propaganda to replace four words, “adhere to Constitutional Principles”.
It has been on my mind this week about Reagan almost taking out a SITTING GOPe PRESIDENT in a primary, talk about your Cantor like upsets!
1. Retirement plans such as Soc Sec
2. Medical plans such as Medicare and Medicaid
3. Welfare plans
4. National Guard turned into 50 state militias
5. Most road/bridge/tunnel building. If we're not going to continue to build out the Interstate Highway system as Eisenhower planned it, and all it is is about expanding lanes and keeping them in repair, then all of this should be kept at the state level
6. Anything related to education
7. Anything related to regulating businesses. If groups of states want to work together to streamline laws to make it easier for corporations to work across their borders, then great, but if they don't want to then so be it.
Probably everything done by the national government except the military, the federal courts, the federal prisons (but we can definitely defederalize a number of crimes and return those prisoners back to the states), NASA, NHS, and other long term research support for the good of the nation.
Again, the fundamental idea is to allow states and local governments to let their freak flags fly to let San Francisco be as left-wing as it wants to be
This is what’s wrong with this idea. We must have federal laws against abortion, homo marriage, etc. Leaving it up to the states should only be an intermediate step, on the way to Constitutional Marriage, Personhood, etc.
I think it was better to have a Carter administration and Iranian hostage crisis prior to that, if you get my drift.
Or a national divorce.
TAXED ENOUGH ALREADY
“This is all very nice in theory. To get to Teatopia, wed have to revisit the fact that almost all states are subject to balanced budget requirements, which are a big part of why state governments have lost ground to the federal government over the years, particularly during recessions”
His implication is that the federal government is able to bully the states because they don’t have to worry about balancing the federal budget. But his logic is a bit off, because balancing a states budget has nothing to do with its ability to raise and spend money. My state could have a $10 billion budget next year if it wanted to comit to the taxes to reach that spending level. Thankfully, our governor has worked for the last three years to make sure we operate under a budget that is balanced and affordable.
And this fulfills the Constitutions requirement that each state is guaranteed a republican form of government how? Article IV Section 4 does not say “a socialist form of government”.
We have a teatopia now. Too many people on the government teat.
I do, but that kind of thing is impossible to know, but I sure like that he took the 1980s.
I felt then and feel now, that I just can’t believe that I actually got to see one of the 2 or 3 greats, in my lifetime.
I'm a firm believer that certain key laws and definitions should be made at the national level. Which persons qualify as citizens, which beings qualify as persons, etc.
I'm also a firm believer that every state should be allowed to experiment, but only within the constraints of the Constitution. Nothing that the essayist wrote seems to violate the constitution. It would be much more leftist than he or any Freeper would like, but it wouldn't be against the Constitution.
Come to think of it, I don't think that socialism is necessarily against the Constitution, definitely in spirit, but not necessarily in word. Large parts of the economy are already nationalized or government run such as dams, the interstate highway system, BLM, National Parks, the military, etc. If the people wanted to nationalize the food growing and distribution systems, where in the Constitution does it say they couldn't get away with it?
I know that libertarians believe that the only truly Constitutional government is a libertarian one, but we seem to have muddled along OK for quite some time without having anything even mildly resembling such a minimal state.
Would a libertarian state in word and deed have been able to stand up to the Confederate Army? Would it have been able to defeat Hitler and Hirohito?
Nice article. I have to say I don't see a lot of downsides. One of the many problems with the current gigantic federal government is that there's no escape from the looting. If social spending became a state matter, there are two major constraints on out of control spending: 1) Balanced budget requirements and 2) the ability of taxpayers to vote with their feet.
That argument seems a bit straw-man-ish. The article isn't talking about a Libertarian Party government, but a Tea Party government. And the Tea Party's primary focus is restoring Constitutional governance. National defense is in the Constitution. Social programs are not.
Teatopia sounds just fine to me. Where can I apply for citizenship?
One is compelled ask, what is realistic about a $17 trillion national debt, $120 trillion in unfunded federal liabilities, out-of-control annual deficits? The point of this question is not to insinuate that, as bad as The Tea Party might be, the existing situation is worse. The point of the question is to raise the specter of disaster, of a crash of some sort which impoverishes us all, or worse, which could conceivably cost us our constitutional democracy.
There is a surprise hidden in this specter of disaster, that is, when it occurs it is very unlikely that the status quo anti would be restored. The left will agitate for a total takeover and will use propaganda, physical violence, and every Alinsky trick to obtain power. They will see this as their chance to complete Obama's transformation of America.
The Tea Party and most conservatives will attempt to emulate the selflessness and statesmanship of the framing fathers. A noble posture but one which is extremely vulnerable to demagoguery, especially in a crisis.
If the demographics of America continue to deteriorate with fewer and fewer occupants of the land even cognizant much less committed to the Lockean vision of the founding fathers, the voices of sanity will scant be heard.
But, your argument, balch3, supports continued fedgov intervention into the lives of the people. The Founders didn’t structure a superior federal government, which is why they included the enumerated powers in the Constitution. All else was reserved to the States, or to the people.
Definition of marriage, for example, should very clearly be a State issue, as it is the State that issues marriage licenses, etc.
Abortion (as all other health related issues) should NEVER be funded by a federal government. That, also, is a State issue.
Your argument extends the concept of incorporation; which is the fundamental reason we have lost so much freedom to an overreaching federal leviathan.
Skip the navel gazing and look at what Marxists want and are bringing.
I don't see in Art 1, Sec 8 of the Constitution where the federal government has authority on any of those things.
Those are State functions, and should be left to the State.
If you want federal laws, amend the Constitution.
Please ping me when you do.
I was not advocating a libertarian state; I was advocating a non-socialist one. The Constitution does guarantee republican forms of government to the states, which means (IMV) that socialism of any form attempted in state governments has to be swiftly struck down as unconstitutional by the federal government if it arises.
You have it upside down.
The federal government may only legislate on subjects authorized by Art. 1, Sec 8 of the Constitution. Everything else is forbidden to the federal government and left to the States, or to the people.
So basically you’re agreeing with me. The Feds can’t be socialist, but any state that wished to be socialist could, at least according to the Constitution.
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