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Op/Ed: What we can all learn from the TEA Party

By Tim Lajoie, Chairman

Lewiston Republican City Committee

The recent battle over raising the federal debt ceiling thrust the TEA Party into the limelight—and not in a good way.

Vice-President Joe Biden called the TEA Party terrorists. Democratic Leader Senator Harry Reid called the TEA Party “unfair and disconcerting.” The major news outlets blamed the TEA Party for holding up the debt ceiling deal because of their “extreme” positions.

Massachusetts Senator John Kerry suggested—apparently forgetting that we have a 1st Amendment right not only to speak out against our government, but also to peaceably confront it—that the news outlets stop talking about TEA Party members because he said their arguments were not credible.

Lost in all of this hyperbolic rhetoric is some valuable truth, truth that only the TEA Party is not willing to abdicate for the sake of political compromise. I submit that every American, for the good of the country, take a real hard look at what the TEA Party stands for and learn some lessons from them.

There is a larger moral question that the TEA Party is forcing Washington—and virtually every state capital—to confront: the morality and ethics of excessive taxation and confiscation of every freeman’s personal labor to feed the monstrosity we call our government.

The TEA Party is telling all who will listen that what is happening in the halls of our government institutions is wrong and that decency demands that Americans oppose it and hold our government accountable, regardless of political party.

The TEA Party is caricatured in the press as a bunch of right-wing zealots who want to oppose any government and who are working to tear down the government we have. Anyone who has actually attended a TEA Party rally or meeting knows this is untrue. Members agree with Thomas Jefferson, who wrote in the Declaration of Independence “… that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights … that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed …”

TEA Party members recognize that there is a role for government proper. But they also recognize that our present government has forgotten that it derives its just powers from the consent of the people, and any power the government gives to itself without our consent is unjust. “We the People” instituted the government. This is the foundation of the TEA Party ideology. Our government answers to us, not the other way around.

It is the contention of the TEA Party that our government takes too much, accounts for too little, then demands more, often with an arrogance that says, “We know better than you.”

The government does this with an aggressiveness that is ever encroaching on our individual rights, decides which rights we can keep and decides which ones they will protect. This should be an affront to every American who yearns to breathe free. It should be the contention of every American, since “We the People” instituted government, that we know better than our representatives in Washington what we need for ourselves and our families to thrive and succeed.

Our forefathers looked to heaven as the author of our freedoms, not to the “hallowed” halls of centralized government. Our present government has devolved into an oligarchy, the rule by a self-anointed minority, comparable to the erroneous assumptions of the 17th-century’s “divine right of kings” that our right to property and the fruits of our labor is not a God-given right, but a right given to us by government and controlled by an elite few.

The TEA Party is right to oppose this attitude. TEA Party members should be lauded, not scorned. Theirs is an ideology that is fundamentally opposed to the one on such awful display in Washington. Quite simply, the TEA Party is tired of funding an ideology that further empowers government and disempowers the citizens who are forced to pay for it—and so should we all.

We should all question the integrity of a government that compels the payment of a portion of what we earn and then challenges our right to demand an account of what they have taken from us. The TEA Party has said, “Enough!”—and so should we all.

It is fundamentally proper to remind our government that it has an ethical duty to ensure that the money it collects from us is responsibly spent before compelling “We the People” to give one cent more. It is fundamentally proper to remind our government that it has an ethical duty to ensure that the money it collects from us is used to protect our rights and freedoms—not used to legislate them away, redefine what they are or ration them at their pleasure.

Americans have a right, indeed, a moral mandate, to ask our government: “What have you done with what we have given to you?” Americans have a right, indeed, a moral mandate, to withhold from our government that which they have shown they cannot be trusted to responsibly manage.

Only the TEA Party has been willing to pursue this mandate. Only the TEA Party has been willing to hold accountable the elected officials who abuse this public trust.

In this, all Americans should find some common ground with the TEA Party. Indeed, to our elected officials we should all say this: Free citizens created the government, not the other way around. Hence, the fruit of our labor belongs to us; it does not belong to government; and the taxes we pay are what “We the People” consent to give government.

Our government should not get to decide how much we get to keep without allowing us a place in the discourse. This is the very definition of tyranny. We have entrusted a portion of our earnings to them, and we should all demand an accountability of that trust.

We are entitled to this because it is our right to demand it. Our elected officials do not get to ask us why we want to know—and they do not get to ask why we want our money back (i.e., cut spending and reduce taxes). Without all of us, government collapses into the dust.

The TEA Party very accurately contends that government has not been responsible with our money. In fact, it is the contention of the TEA Party that government has stolen the fruits of our labor and hampered our individual  pursuit of liberty and happiness—that it has disregarded our God-given rights and substituted them with rights of the state, as if the state created them. How is this extreme?

It was Thomas Jefferson who said that when a government became destructive of the inalienable rights endowed us by our Creator, it was our right to alter or abolish it. Fortunately, in America, we can do this without bloodshed through the election process.

The TEA Party mobilized in 2010 to influence this process and sent a message to legislators everywhere, “Fiscal Responsibility, Free Markets and Limited Government.” This debt-ceiling deal reveals that those sent to Washington on the power of the TEA Party were listening, and it reveals why they opposed this deal. The others apparently were not listening—they did not get the message.

This indicates a disconnect much like the disconnect that existed between Great Britain and America in the 1700s. Our representatives in government are not 3,000 miles and an ocean away, but they may as well be. We can go months, or even years, without hearing from them. If this absentee representation does not amount to taxation without representation, I do not know what does.

Our elected officials in Washington seek to avoid the consequences of their financial mismanagement by passing their mistakes to succeeding generations to whom they are not accountable. We, as American citizens, should not allow this irresponsible behavior to stand anymore. This is not a TEA Party talking point. Our forefathers resisted unjust taxation, not just for themselves, but for the benefit of successive generations. All Americans today must also resist, and continue to resist, until our government gets the message.

It is simply not right to saddle us, our children and our grandchildren with debt brought on by irresponsible spending that we did not consent to. And, yes, I mean consent. It is true that our government is now, and has for some time, borrowed (some would say stolen) the property of those who are not yet old enough to vote or to consent to the confiscation of their future earnings to pay for our present government’s voracious appetite.

Generations not yet born will be paying for the spending decisions made today. If that is not taxation without representation, I do not know what is. All Americans should oppose this enslavement of their children and grandchildren.

Our forefathers expressed their opposition to the misappropriation of their earnings to fund graft, to fund favors to chosen constituencies or fund corruption. Is there a point when taxation becomes theft? The TEA Party believes there is:

When it is spent against the wishes of the taxpayer;

When it is spent inefficiently; and

When those who spend it are not accountable for how they spend it.

Every American should agree with these points. And we are just in replacing representatives who epitomize these points.

As our forefathers did, the TEA Party believes irresponsible representation served as a just argument against unjust taxation. I submit the following:

When government spends more than it earns, expecting the taxpayer to pay the bill, our representation has become negligent;

When a citizen is forced to surrender his property through compulsory taxation and is not entitled to accountability from his legislators, our representation has become negligent; and

When a citizen is told he has no right to question his representatives, or their stewardship of our liberties, our representation has become negligent.

The government’s arguments for its irresponsible fiscal management are vapid. We’ve all heard them: the rich aren’t paying their fair share; the tax payer can afford it; there are too many tax loopholes; there needs to be shared sacrifice; on and on ad nauseam. We are asked to believe that it is simply a question of honor: We should all give a little bit more, and those who earn more should pay more. This is, of course, intended to create dissension among citizens and turn us on each other—to create class warfare.

Let me say something that we should all agree with: none of us should be interested in how much wealth someone has, so long as they earn it honestly. Everyone is entitled to the money they earn. However, Washington is only entitled to the money we consent to send them. The problem is not insufficient taxation; the problem is too much spending.

We who manage our household budgets know that deficits are not caused by under-funding, but by overspending. The average American does not have the luxury of handing off their credit card bill to their neighbor when they have charged up more than they can pay. Why should our government, which was formed and created by all of us, have the ability to raise our taxes or to borrow more money while passing the bill to our posterity, when it continues to carelessly spend more than we send it?

The problem crosses party lines: this is not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue, and very few legislators are immune. It always makes me chuckle when those in Washington lecture American businesses or its citizens on ethical behavior. Yes, there has been unethical and illegal activity in corporate America, behavior we should all categorically denounce. Yes, there are a few wealthy individuals who exploit the poor, behavior we should all categorically denounce.

But let me also say this. The most corrupt, unethical and greedy organization in these United States is not on Wall Street or in our communities, it is in Washington D.C. And it is Washington’s behavior that every American should categorically denounce.

In the 1700s there was an arrogance in the British Parliament in the years leading up to the War for Independence that is eerily similar to what we see today:

The Stamp Act 1765 implied that the colonists were obligated to pay whatever taxes were passed by Parliament, since it was Parliament’s belief that they succeeded and thrived because government nourished them. Citizens were seen as property, subjects to serve at the pleasure of government.

In the Declaratory Act 1766 the British Parliament asserted complete authority over the colonists to the point of overruling their provincial assemblies and magistrates.

The Townsend Act of 1767 was passed by Parliament to tax products the colonists could only purchase from Great Britain.

Can anyone say this attitude does not also exist today? Does not Washington demonstrate this arrogance when it dictates to us how we should live, when its federal courts set aside legislation passed by citizen initiative or passed in our state legislatures, or when it mandates we purchase certain products, like government health care? The TEA Party believes that it does, and we should all agree.

Washington says, “Who are you to question us?” Washington’s subtle encroachment on our liberties is meant to desensitize the American people so they will willingly accept a government-imposed dependence through oppressive taxation. The British tried this, too, but our forefathers were wise and they knew that men are neither free nor happy if their property can be taken without their consent.

To be free, men must be secure in their property. For the Founding Fathers, property did not mean only land. Property was defined as that which a man possessed: his faculties, his abilities, his right to conscience, his right to self-determination, his right to earn a living and his right to keep all that those possessions provided for him—to use them as each individual saw fit in his pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Our government wants us to think that they are the apex of that pursuit—that “We the People” are here to serve the almighty state. Once we yield to that ideology and forget that we are uniquely created by God with inalienable rights, then we will cease to be free.  Once a government has the authority to deprive a man of the fruit of his labor, he will deprive him of his rights. History has shown us this, and the TEA Party wants to remind us of it.

To the argument that we elected these people to government as our representatives, hence we have consented to their legislative triumphs in confiscating our wealth to offset their irresponsible fiscal behavior, let me say this. Legal does not mean right, legal does not mean ethical, and legislated theft is still theft. Here the TEA Party stands its ground, and their position comes from measuring government legislation against a higher standard of ethics than the moral relativism that permeates the halls of our government.

Is it not fair to ask our representatives in Washington the following questions and give them a chance to be accountable? Can they honestly say this about our tax dollars:

None has been lost to graft or earmarks that buy votes (they used to be called bribes);

None has been lost to fraud: shady contracting, inflated bids, or favorable treatment to campaign donors;

None has been lost to redundancy: funding for programs or services that are no longer needed, best left to the private sector or not wanted because the government unions that represent the workers in these programs will withdraw their support of candidates who propose eliminating them; or

None has been lost to financial mismanagement, the funding of lavish perks, poor management or inefficient or incompetent disbursement.

If the answer is “no”—and we all know that it is—then our government has no moral authority to compel us to give one penny more; in fact, it is immoral. It is theft. The TEA Party is not afraid to ask these questions.

Every American should refuse to allow our government to conduct business this way any longer and force it to clean its own house before taking more from ours. Our posterity will judge us all by the resolve we—by “we,” I mean all Americans—exhibit in the face of the crisis our nation faces today. We have a moral responsibility to leave our children a nation in better shape than we found it.

We should not give our government unchallenged control over our lives. This is not about power or political allegiances. The TEA Party believes that this is not a political question, but a moral question.

They are submitting to their values, and they transcend party politics. If most of us were honest, we would admit that the TEA Party cause is right; it is just.

“We the People”—Republican, Democrat, Independent—need to stand together and make this government work for all us so that we all might pursue our individual happiness without our government holding us back.

14 Responses to “Op/Ed: What we can all learn from the TEA Party”

  • An excellent and very fair overview and commentary.

  • Corey Troup:

    What an outstanding column. It very succinctly explained the challenges of “We the People”. Well done!

  • Susan Erskine:

    Very well put! This is a fair and understandable explanation of what our government is supposed to be versus what it has become, along with describing the Tea Party.

  • Jack Tetreault:

    Excellent. I concur with all comments.

  • as one of the founding members of the TEA Party here in Maine I’d say this is a very thoughtful and accurate description of the TEA Party at the national and local level.
    Carter Jones
    Aurora, Maine

  • WONDERFUL! Cogent, insightful, intelligent, accurate and above all TRUTHFUL. Congratulations for publishing a clear cal to action for “WE THE PEOPLE”.

  • Bravo! Well done. I do wonder if the Tea Party realizes that the monstrous bureaucracy created by the liberal left since they first gained control of our government about eighty years ago is what is actually running government now and controlling Congress as well. While doing so, the masters of creations like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have taken millions of dollars of public money for themselves while destroying most of the wealth of the American middle class. All with the approval and support of our independent Congress, mostly Democrat, but Republican as well. Most sections of that bureaucracy are ponzi schemes using taxpayer dollars and appropriations as investments..

  • Thank you for such a truthful op-ed. It is refreshing to read something positive about the tea party for a change.

  • As a founding member of Cumberland County Tea Party in Maine. I would like to say THANK YOU for such a well written article. Maybe some disbelievers in the Tea Party will read this and see that all we are trying to do to save our country

  • Jerry DeLemus:

    I could not stop reading. As organizer of the Rochester NH 912 Project and Chairman of the Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC I commend you on your grasp of history and it’s application to today. The element in human character that seems to be acceptable to be lacking in our public servants is integrity. We must hold them accountable and stand firm in our resolve to reclaim our Republic.
    Semper Fi,
    Jerry DeLemus

  • Don Folkers:

    A fine article as far as it goes. One omission is the vulnerability of the relatively unorganized local Tea Party groups — vulnerability to “members” who will gradually deflect the purposes in another direction. A subtle assault from within, if you will. Jake Shannon of Utah warned of this in the subtitle of his recent book, “Exposing the Neoconservative Infiltration and Takeover of the 21st Century Tea Party Movement”. The Neoconservative movement has been defined by one of the presidential candidates as “anything but conservative”. See C. Bradley Thompson’s book where he defected from the neoconservative movement and exposed them on page 251 as being “the false prophets of Americanism” and as being “America’s Trojan horse.”

  • susie:

    As a tea party organizer, I applaud this article. This was amazingly well said….you have touched the very heart of the Tea Party…bravo!

  • Diana Woolley:

    Thank you for this great article. You have put down on paper exactly what the Tea Party movement is all about. May more and more people awaken to what our government has become. It is up to us to vote out the old government and vote in a government “For the People, By the People, once again.

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