Do the tea baggers engage in tea bagging?

By | 2010/04/24

I really find the American Tea Baggers quite a funny bunch. The entire movement has about all the finesse of a bowel movement. At times when I see interviews with tea baggers on TV I think they’ve left their white sheets and hoods at home, and at other times I think they’re just babbling idiots. In truth, they’re exemplars of narcissism.

The big thing of course that really seemed to galvanise the tea baggers was the notion of “socialised medicine”. Only in America could that term be created, I think, to deal with what much of the western world has referred to as universal healthcare for some time. For me, universal healthcare is about:

  1. Knowing that if I urgently need treatment and for some reason I don’t have private cover, I can still get it.
  2. Knowing that people who can’t afford to get private cover can get the treatment.
  3. Knowing that overall, society believes there is a universal obligation to try to provide a certain level of healthcare to all citizens.

Somehow the tea baggers have twisted this notion of universal healthcare to be a bad thing – an immoral thing, an evil thing. I’m not a christian, I’m not even religious, but even I see an intrinsic moral goodness in supporting a system whose purpose is to try to ensure that everyone (regardless of wealth or social standing) can rely on a certain level of medical support.

More generally, tea baggers seem to be all about:

  • Preventing governments from intervening in business or society;
  • Not spending money (and certainly not bloody well taxing it!);
  • Not liking a non-white President.

As an outsider, the third point is painfully obvious in the vast majority of the faecal rhetoric that comes out of the tea baggers movement. The first two points are ludicrous; the global financial crisis was without a sliver of a doubt the result of governments all around the world becoming too lax with their policing of big-businesses. “Greed is good” turned out to be about the only “self regulation” the markets were capable of, and it lead to a precipitous situation that the world has still not fully escaped from. Wanting to go back to that sort of free market/self regulated system is about as crazy as deciding that everyone is allowed to carry guns.

Is there such a thing as too much tax? Yes, undoubtedly. Arguably though many western countries are suffering the exact opposite problem – the nature of democracy frequently sees political parties choosing to reduce taxes in order to ensure that they maximise votes during election cycles. The net result is that governments are then forced to sell off many of their state assets to try to recoup the lost taxes. This only lasts for so long, so they’re subsequently forced to increase taxes in order to recoup financial input. When they don’t increase the taxes, they end up as basket cases, and when they do, thousands or even millions of bogans scream that they’ll have to consume a little less. (I’m the first to admit that I consume too much – and I’m not just talking from a dietary perspective. Five years ago I would have denied it, but I’m no longer in denial, and it’s something I remind myself of acutely any time I think “I really need this”. Often that “need” becomes “want”, and then I think of what I really need, vs what I really want. It may not always succeed, but I certainly don’t let it get in the way of thinking about taxes.)

I’m glad I pay taxes. Sure, some of my taxes are used for things I don’t agree with, such as propping up repressive religious institutions and private schools that want their own laws and curriculums but somehow still want public money to achieve it. Yet the vast majority of my taxes are undoubtedly used on things that are entirely appropriate: civil works, universal healthcare, unemployment benefits, pensions – the sorts of things that (a) allow our societies to continue to grow and prosper, and (b) do what is morally right.

You don’t need a religious view or book to tell you what’s right and wrong, just the ability to look around and think “so if that happened to me, would I be happy about it?” Think about it:

  • If I lost my job and couldn’t get any assistance, would I be happy with it?
  • If I was sick and couldn’t get medical assistance, would I be happy with it?
  • If I was mugged and couldn’t get police assistance, would I be happy with it?
  • If I moved into a house and it turns out the local council hadn’t installed plumbing or water, would I be happy with it?

While Hobbes wrote from the perspective of defending a monarchy, the notion of the social contract espoused in Leviathan is a fundamental component of how societies work – there is a real expectation that in order to be part of a society, we have certain obligations to the collective whole, as it does in return to us.

With this in mind, the values espoused by tea baggers frequently remind me most of anarchists. It’s about creating such an entirely narcissistic level of liberty and personal freedom that the notion of a social contract is abandoned in favour of “entitlement for me at the expense of others”.

I’ll admit, I get a chuckle every time I think of the tea baggers, because long before their movement had come along I’d heard what “tea bagging” meant in slang terms. (Not safe for work or kids: here.) We want to laugh at tea baggers, but there’s nothing funny about a movement that’s based on extreme narcissism and abandonment of social contracts. Nothing funny at all – other than the “tea bagging” bit…