The Tea Party in Government

It is beginning to look like the Tea Party might end up as a flash-in-the pan.  Or a one-trick pony, to use another terrible cliche.  Rick Scott, Florida’s new governor, who was heavily backed by the Tea Party rejected $2.4 billion in federal high-speed rail money this week. He joined Governors John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin in bravely refusing to take money that will create jobs, increase connections between cities, and reduce auto emissions.  This week Governor Walker of Wisconsin took his Tea-Partyin’ a step further this week by proposing a union-busting bill and threatening to sick the National Guard on any public employees who dare to strike (more on this later).

Kasich, Scott, Walker and their Tea Party colleagues in Congress campaigned on jobs.  Mr. Kasich won, in large part, because Ohio had lost nearly 400,000 jobs under former Governor Ted Strickland.  Said Mr. Kasich upon winning, “Folks, we took a step forward tonight toward putting Ohioans back to work.”  Governor Scott has Seven Steps to Create 700,000 Jobs in Seven Years.  In Wisconsin, Candidate Walker’s plan will create 250,000 and 10,000 businesses.  When each Governor was offered funding that would create good paying work for their constituents, they all said no.  Weird.

Building high-speed rail is not going to create temporary six month jobs.  It will create design jobs and construction jobs.  Trains don’t run by themselves – they need engineers, conductors, maintenance workers, ticket sellers, and safety inspectors.  And janitors and security guards.  Thousands of jobs at a time when Wisconsin’s unemployment rate (based on those who have filed) is 7%, Ohio at 9.3% and Florida tops out at 12%.  Those jobs went away the moment each Governor said no.

Where does that leave high-speed rail?  The U.S. is still far behind many of our global neighbors when it comes to rail.  China is building rail across the country.  It already has over 3,000 miles of high-speed lines and a MagLev train in Shanghai that can reportedly reach 220 mph.  Japan, already home to an extensive rail network, is planning to construct a high-speed line that can reach 310 mph.  Europe is littered with regular and high-speed rail networks.  The U.S. has the Acela line along the Northeast corridor and various regional commuter networks.  High-speed rail is expensive, but it creates jobs.  It’s efficient and moves commuters, tourists, and clients faster throughout regions, increasing business capacity.  It reduces auto emissions and can be cheaper than driving or flying.  The benefits more than recoup the costs.  We are choosing to be left behind.

Tampa to Orlando was one of two demonstration projects.  The Federal Government owns much of the right-of-way, which would have made construction faster and easier.  The line would have sped by traffic stuck on I-4.  Instead, people will be stuck in traffic along I-4.  Unless Disney is willing to expand the monorail across Central Florida.  The money will now be redistributed to other states, plenty of Governors want to put people to work.

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Governor Walker’s attempt to strip government employees of their collective bargaining rights was a massive overshoot.  His threat to deploy the National Guard to deal with striking teachers, janitors, and other state workers was incredibly poorly timed.  We’ve been watching images of people standing up for their rights and being beaten back by police across the Middle East for weeks.  Now an American governor is going to act like President Ali Abdullah Selah of Yemen?  Wisconsin exploded today.  A march, ten blocks long, made it’s way to the Governor’s mansion and schools in Madison had to be closed because of a massive teacher “sick-out”.  10,000 people were at the State Capitol today.  You can expect this to continue, especially if the bill passes.  The Governor has already made concessions, though they’re small.

Tea Party backed elected officials are going to push as much as they can.  They were elected, it’s their prerogative how they use their office.  Rational Republicans may tire of it quickly.  Already the Republicans in Congress have been forced to propose even more cuts to the Federal budget.  Reductions that they admit go to far.  House Republicans lost a vote on the engine for the F-35 Fighter.  A vote Republicans pushed for about an engine that the Air Force doesn’t want. People are already waking up to the reality of a Tea Party Government.  It shows in the initial polling for the Republican nominee for President.  People most likely to be supported by the Tea Party can’t get our of single digits while Mitt Romney is pulling in 25-30%. Even at a local level, Tea Parties are proving less capable and more ideological – remember when the Tea Party backed county executive ran Nassau County into the ground in less than a year?

The ideology already appears to be swallowing any hope of responsible governance and we’re only a month and a half in.

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  1. […] the next two years of Tea Party Members of Congress, this week has been instructive.  Rick Scott turned down job-creating High Speed Rail money and Wisconsin exploded.  The protests for the last three days […]



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