Five Years after Santelli's Rant, a Look Back at 10 Lessons for Tea Baggers
Five years ago today, CNBC regular Rick Santelli launched into the infamous rant that many credit with birthing the Tea Party movement. That the Tea Party's toxic mix of blind rage, shocking detachment from the facts and periodic descent into racist rhetoric pre-dated Santelli's frothing at the mouth performance has largely been overlooked. Nevertheless, five years later Santelli says he has "no regrets" about what he once deemed "the best five minutes of my life." The American people are another matter.
Regardless of their paternity, the self-proclaimed Tea Baggers are also unapologetic. But by slandering the President of the United States, propagating falsehoods in almost every area of public policy and nearly triggering a global economy catastrophe by refusing to raise the U.S. debt ceiling, the Tea Party has a lot to be sorry for.
Here, then, is a look back to 2009's "10 Lessons for Tea Baggers."
Back in April, the Daily Show's Jon Stewart offered some sound advice for frothing at the mouth Tea Baggers, "I think you might be confusing tyranny with losing." Now five months after their Tax Day outburst, thousands of vein-popping Obama opponents descended Saturday on Washington for Tea Party II. But while Glenn Beck's furious followers alternately slandered the President as a "fascist," a "communist" and worse, they remained unencumbered by either the thought process - or the truth.
Here, then, are 10 Lessons for Tea Baggers:
- President Obama Cut Your Taxes
- The Stimulus is Working
- First Ronald Reagan Tripled the National Debt...
- ...Then George W. Bush Doubled It Again
- Republican States Have the Worst Health Care
- Medicare is a Government Program
- Barack Obama is Not a Muslim
- Barack Obama was Born in the United States
- 70,000 Does Not Equal 2,000,000
- The Economy Almost Always Does Better Under Democrats
1. President Obama Cut Your Taxes
As in April, the Tea Baggers continued to display their fundamental misunderstanding of U.S. history and the American Revolution. Apparently, the right-wing zealots are outraged by no taxation with representation.
As promised, Barack Obama in the stimulus package delivered on his pledge of tax relief for 95% of American households. Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) didn't only jump start gross domestic product and refill empty state coffers in the second quarter of 2009. As Nate Silver thoroughly documented, "Obama has cut taxes for 98.6% of working households."
Nevertheless, raging Tea Baggers spouting Republican Tax Day lies took to the streets not to thank the President, but to blame him for the tax cuts they received.
2. The Stimulus is Working
A prime target of Bagger bashing, the $787 billion stimulus package passed over the near-total obstructionism of Congressional Republicans is already paying huge dividends for the economy.
To be sure, at 9.7% the unemployment rate remains dismal. But the impact of ARRA and other government actions extends well beyond the Obama administration's claim it has created or preserved one million jobs to date. As I documented in August:
After steep declines of 5.4% and 6.4% in the previous two quarters, gross domestic product fell only 1% in the last three months. And while the ARRA overall added "up to 3 full percentage points of annualized growth in the quarter," President Obama's stimulus helped precisely where it was needed most - rescuing devastated state budgets.
Earlier this month, the reliably Republican Wall Street Journal agreed the Obama administration has helped stem the bleeding from the Bush Recession:
Many forecasters say stimulus spending is adding two to three percentage points to economic growth in the second and third quarters, when measured at an annual rate. The impact in the second quarter, calculated by analyzing how the extra funds flowing into the economy boost consumption, investment and spending, helped slow the rate of decline and will lay the groundwork for positive growth in the third quarter -- something that seemed almost implausible just a few months ago. Some economists say the 1% contraction in the second quarter would have been far worse, possibly as much as 3.2%, if not for the stimulus.
For the third quarter, economists at Goldman Sachs & Co. predict the U.S. economy will grow by 3.3%. "Without that extra stimulus, we would be somewhere around zero," said Jan Hatzius, chief U.S. economist for Goldman.
3. First Reagan Tripled the National Debt...
For Tea Baggers supposedly concerned that "deficit spending is out of hand," history apparently began only on January 20, 2009. Because while President Obama rightly resorted to massive deficit spending to rescue the American economy from calamity, it was Ronald Reagan who ushered in the now-standard Republican practice of "spending our children's inheritance."
As Steve Benen rightly noted, it was not Reagan but President Obama whose stimulus plan delivered the largest two-year tax cut in history. And as it turns out, what Saint Ronnie giveth, he also taketh away.
As predicted, Reagan's massive $749 billion supply-side tax cuts in 1981 quickly produced even more massive annual budget deficits. Combined with his rapid increase in defense spending, Reagan delivered not the balanced budgets he promised, but record-settings deficits. Ultimately, Reagan was forced to raise taxes twice to avert financial catastrophe (a fact John McCain learned the hard way from Tom Brokaw last October). By the time he left office in 1989, Ronald Reagan nonetheless more than equaled the entire debt burden produced by the previous 200 years of American history.
4. ...Then Bush Doubled It Again
Following in Reagan's footsteps, George W. Bush buried the myth of Republican fiscal discipline.
Inheriting a federal budget in the black and CBO forecast for a $5.6 trillion surplus over 10 years, President George W. Bush quickly set about dismantling the progress made under Bill Clinton. Bush's $1.4 trillion tax cut in 2001, followed by a $550 billion second round in 2003, accounted for the bulk of the yawning budget deficits he produced.
Like Reagan and Stockman before him, Bush resorted to the rosy scenario to claim he would halve the budget deficit by 2009. Before the financial system meltdown last fall, Bush's deficit already reached $490 billion. (And even before the passage of the Wall Street bailout, Bush had presided over a $4 trillion increase in the national debt, a staggering 71% jump.) By this January, the mind-numbing deficit figure reached $1.2 trillion, forcing President Bush to raise the debt ceiling to $11.3 trillion.
Tea Baggers take note: the Bush tax cuts delivered a third of their total benefits to the wealthiest 1% of Americans. And the staggering $2 trillion price tag for Bush's giveaway to the richest needing it least dwarfs the estimated $900 billion cost over 10 years of President Obama's health care proposals.
5. Republican States Have the Worst Health Care
George W. Bush didn't merely spend the health care money on a windfall for America's rich and famous. He helped ensure red states continued to provide the worst health care in the nation.
Call it the Iron Law of Birtherism: the movement which denies President Obama's Hawaiian birth is strongest precisely in those states where Republicans poll best and health care is worst.
A 2007 Commonwealth Fund report, "Aiming Higher: Results from a State Scorecard on Health System Performance," examined states' performance across 32 indicators of health care access, quality, outcomes and hospital use. Topping the list were Hawaii, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Bringing up the rear were the Bush bastions of Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, Arkansas, Texas, with Mississippi and Oklahoma. The 10 worst performing states were all solidly Republican in 2004. (8 voted for McCain in 2008.)
The extremes in health care performance are startling. For example, 30% of adults and 20% of children in Texas lacked health insurance, compared to 11% in Minnesota and 5% in Vermont, respectively. Premature death rates from preventable conditions were almost double (141.7 per 100,000 people) in Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi compared to the top performing states (74.1 per 100,000). Adults over 50 receiving preventative care topped 50% in Minnesota compared to only 33% in Idaho. Childhood immunizations reached 94% in Massachusetts, compared to just 75% in the bottom five states. As the report details, federal and state policies, such as insurance requirements and Medicaid incentives, clearly impact health care outcomes.
(In May, the Washington Post rightly noted it would be blue state residents funding health care reform for their red state brethren in an article titled, "A Red State Booster Shot." The grandstanding of Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal et al notwithstanding, the same one-way flow of taxpayer dollars from Washington to red states, of course, is a permanent feature of federal spending in general. And yet a 2008 survey predictably showed 68% of Republicans believe the U.S. has the best health system in the world, compared to only three in 10 Democrats.)
6. Medicare is a Government Program
Among the greatest ironies of the health care debate is the specter of Republicans feigning concern over Medicare. The same party that opposed Medicare in the 1960's and tried to slash its budget in the 1990's now scares the bejesus out of 46 million American elderly recipients by warning of bogus death panels and Democrats "sticking it to seniors with cuts to Medicare."
Even more ironic is that a majority of the GP faithful do not seem to know that Medicare is a government-run program. As I noted previously:
In July, Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC) described an angry constituent who confronted him at a South Carolina town hall meeting, "keep your government hands off my Medicare." Despite his best efforts to explain that Medicare is a government program, the voter, Inglis lamented, "wasn't having any of it."
But as recent data from Public Policy Polling revealed, that same cognitive failure is now far more widespread than swine flu. While 39% of all Americans responded that the government should "stay out of Medicare," 59% of self-identified conservatives and 62% of McCain voters hold that oxymoronic view.
7. Barack Obama is Not a Muslim
An April survey by the Pew Research Center showed that 11% of Americans believe Barack Obama is a Muslim, a figure largely unchanged since its polling started in March 2008. Yet 17% of Republicans and 19% of white evangelicals (74% of whom voted for John McCain) insist the President is an adherent of Islam, despite his repeated pronouncements and decades of church attendance to the contrary.
Judging from their signs, a much larger percentage of Tea Baggers maintain this error.
8. Barack Obama was Born in the United States
As it turns out, the Tea Bagging faithful are even worse at basic geography than comparative religion. The Birther contagion is running rampant among the ranks of Republicans. And even with repeated treatments of birth certificates and Hawaiian newspaper announcements from 1961, there is apparently no cure.
A DailyKos/Research 2000 poll found that a stunning 58% of Republicans did not believe (28%) or were unsure (30%) that President Barack Obama was in fact born in the United States. To be sure, this is a Southern pathology, a region home to 69% of all birthers and the only part of the country to increase its Republican presidential vote in 2008. The PPP survey only confirmed the chronic birtherism plaguing the Republican Party:
Only 62% of respondents reported believing that Obama was born in the United States. 10% thought he was born in Indonesia, 7% thought he was born in Kenya, 1% thought he was born in the Philippines, and 20% weren't sure. Among Republicans 44% think he was not born here while just 36% believe that he was.
(In a promising development, only 10% of respondents weren't sure if Hawaii is part of the United States. On this score, conservatives were only slightly more confused than liberals and moderates.)
9. 70,000 Does Not Equal 2,000,000
Math, too, provides another stumbling block for the masterminds and acolytes of Tea Party movement.
After FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe wrongly inflated the estimates of the 9/12 crowd in Washington DC at 2,000,000, ABC and others corrected the fraud. But that didn't stop the conservative blogosphere from parroting the charade debunked by both DC police - and simple comparative photography.
As Nat Silver concluded, "Size Matters; So Do Lies."
The way this false estimate came into being is relatively simple: Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, lied, claiming that ABC News had reported numbers of between 1.0 and 1.5 million when they never did anything of the sort. A few tweets later, the numbers had been exaggerated still further to 2 million. Kibbe wasn't "in error", as Malkin gently puts it. He lied. He did the equivalent of telling people that his penis is 53 inches long.
10. The Economy Almost Always Does Better Under Democrats
If the extended Pinocchio nose and a similarly over-inflated phallus are the apt symbols of the Tea Party movement, the Tea Baggers are in for one final, rude awakening. For all of their histrionics about "socialism" and "communism", the historical record clearly shows the economy overall and the stock market in particular almost always do better under Democratic presidents.
Just days after the Washington Post documented that George W. Bush presided over the worst eight-year economic performance in the modern American presidency, the New York Times in January featured an analysis comparing presidential performance going back to Eisenhower. As the Times showed, George W. Bush, the first MBA president, was a historic failure when it came to expanding GDP, producing jobs and fueling stock market growth. And across almost every indicator (article here, charts here), Democrats outperformed their Republican counterparts.
The superior performance of Democratic presidents covers virtually the entire spectrum of economic indicators. As Elliott Parker of the University of Nevada, Reno detailed in a 2006 paper, since 1949 Democratic administrations have done better than Republican ones when it comes to unemployment (5.2% to 6.0%), job creation (-.0.4% decrease in unemployment, compared to 0.3% increase), GDP growth rate (4.2% to 2.9%), and even corporate profits as a share of GDP. And to be sure, he found the Dow benefits from Democrats in the White House.
There's no shortage of studies to show that stock market returns are higher under Democratic leadership. (As it turns out, Wall Street's performance is also better when Democrats control Congress.) In 2000, Pedro Santa-Clara and Rossen Valkanov of UCLA's Anderson School of Business concluded that "that the average excess return in the stock market is higher under Democratic than Republican presidents - a difference of 9 percent per year for the value-weighted portfolio and 16 percent for the equal-weighted portfolio." As the New York Times noted of UCLA study in 2003:
"It's not even close. The stock market does far better under Democrats...
As the spent Tea Baggers wipe the spittle from their lips at they trudge home from Washington, they would do well to remember one final truth. The words of Harry Truman, the man Sarah Palin cited as her model, are as true today as when he uttered them generations ago:
"If you want to live like a Republican, vote Democratic."
("10 Lessons for Tea Baggers" first appeared on September 14, 2009.)