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Tea Party

The Leonard Lopate Show

"Debt and Dumb"

Monday, October 17, 2011

Economists Simon Johnson and James Kwak discuss their article “Debt and Dumb,” in the November issue of Vanity Fair. They argue that today’s Tea Party is a betrayal of the foundation of American fiscal policy as established by Alexander Hamilton and has nothing in common with the Boston uprising it claims to honor. Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the Treasury, believed that good credit, based on the power to tax, is essential to a nation’s security.

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It's A Free Country ®

The Politics of Occupy Wall Street, One Month In

Monday, October 17, 2011

You meet more people who voted for [Obama] really thinking it was their last-ditch attempt at using politics to get what they wanted...They saw this once-in-a-generation chance to really change America and they think it's gone, so they're being realistic about what they can do now...They've moved on from thinking they can get anything done in Washington.

—Slate political reporter Dave Weigel on The Brian Lehrer Show

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On The Media

The Tea Party vs. Occupy Wall Street

Friday, October 14, 2011

The media have drawn a lot of comparisons between the nascent "Occupy" protests and the Tea Party. But the Tea Party–or parts of it–objects to that comparison.  Brooke spoke to Politico’s Ken Vogel, who says some members of the Tea Party have launched a media campaign against Occupy Wall Street.

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The Takeaway

Occupy Wall Street: Taking a Stand in a Soundbite Culture

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"It’s the economy, stupid." "No new taxes." "Four more years." "Change we can believe in." In modern politics, a campaign is dead in the water if it does not have a clear, concise message that can be expressed with the economy of a soundbite. One constant criticism of the movement loosely started by the Occupy Wall Street protests in Manhattan is that they lack such a coherent message. But is that a bad thing? 

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The Takeaway

Occupy Wall Street Continues to Grow in Fourth Week

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street movement is entering its fourth week and showing no signs of slowing down. What began as a loosely organized protest against corporate greed and the growing gap between rich and poor Americans has increased dramatically in terms of supporters, media coverage, and online discussions. Thousands of people have turned out for protests in lower Manhattan, and in dozens of other places across the country, including Boston, Miami, and the District of Columbia. Many media outlets have declared the leaderless Occupy movement to be the left's answer to the Tea Party movement, and others have likened it to the Arab Spring.

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The Takeaway

A Tea Party Activist Responds to Occupy Wall Street

Monday, October 10, 2011

As the Occupy Wall Street protests enter their fourth week, a number of media commentators have made the inevitable comparison to the Tea Party movement that has galvanized conservative politics for the last two years. But are the two movements really that similar, or is the comparison simply a convenient media narrative? Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer has been quoted dismissing the movement as "a kid having a temper tantrum because their parents won't buy them the whole ice-cream store." (Read a transcript of the interview after the jump.)

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It's A Free Country ®

Unlike Tea Party, Wall Street Protests Ignore Electoral Politics

Friday, October 07, 2011

Obama knows protesters at Occupy Wall Street are frustrated. Like Clinton and our pain, Obama feels that frustration.

“I think people are frustrated and the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system work,” he said at his press conference Thursday.

It’s nothing new that the American people see the banks’ recovery in opposition to their own standing. This week, Rasmussen poll found that 79 percent of Americans agree with the statement that "the big banks got bailed out but the middle class got left behind."

As Occupy Wall Street looks to build power as it spreads across the country, the Tea Party has taken those numbers, well, right to the bank.

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The Takeaway

Koch Industries Sold Millions of Dollars of Petrochemical Equipment to Iran

Monday, October 03, 2011

A six-month investigation by Bloomberg Markets magazine into Koch Industries, one of the world's largest privately held companies, has revealed the highly secretive conglomerate paid bribes to improperly win contracts around the world, and sold millions of dollars worth of petrochemical equipment to Iran. The U.S. government classifies Iran as a sponsor of global terrorism. Koch Industries, which is best known for consumer brands like Lycra, Dixie cups, and Brawny paper towels, is controlled by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers known for financing elements of the Tea Party movement, as well as other libertarian, anti-government causes.

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It's A Free Country ®

What Occupy Wall Street Says About Protesting in America

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I think the reason we’re seeing such… populist anger, really, expressed on both the Right and the Left, is that people see that... they understand that. And where I don’t think we have a national consensus is okay, what’s the answer?

Chrystia Freeland, global editor-at-large of Thomson Reuters, on The Brian Lehrer Show.

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Transportation Nation

Rick Perry’s Trans-Texas Corridor Problem

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Governor Rick Perry speaking at CPAC FL in Orlando, Florida. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr

For Texas Governor Rick Perry, Republican Primary debates have been a little rocky. So far he's been made to answer for mandating an HPV vaccine, and for granting undocumented immigrants in-state tuition breaks. Equally vexing for Perry may be the Corridor question, which will require the same difficult maneuvering between the choices he made as governor of a large, diverse state, and the the choices that appeal to Republican primary voters whose appetite for big government, or any kind of government, is at one of its lowest points in modern history.

Eventually, Perry will be asked to defend his Trans-Texas Corridor program, an infrastructure initiative that was expensive, disruptive to private property, and proposed at least partly in the name of facilitating NAFTA trade (though not, as some protesters would have it, part of a plot to dissolve America's borders).

Perry may succeed in demonizing the federal government in cheering for states' rights, but he may have to defend criticism that he ran his state (which likes to think of itself as a nation) in a manner that threatened local decision-making just the same.

Perry first floated his Texas-sized transportation plan in 2002, during his first campaign for Governor (he had already ascended to the position in 2000 with the departure of Governor George W. Bush to the White House). The Corridor was “the largest engineering project ever proposed for Texas, a world-class concept,” a now-infamous report (pdf) explained. “The Trans Texas Corridor is an all-Texas transportation network of corridors up to 1,200 feet wide." The criss-crossing network, totaling 4,000 miles, "will include separate highway lanes for passenger vehicles and trucks, high-speed passenger rail and commuter and freight rail. The corridor also will have a dedicated utility zone.”

The TTC, as it came to be known, was Perry’s and his Department of Transportation’s answer to the challenges of a growing state economy. Following its cover page, the report offered an epigraph quoting Sam Houston, who, as a U.S. Senator in 1852, said that Transportation was “of vital importance, and we must all lay our hands to it as a great and mighty work of national interest and concernment, divested of everything sectional or local in its character. If its accomplishment is to be secured, it must be done with united hands and united hearts, with reference alone to the public good and its accomplishment on the most reasonable terms that the national resources will justify.”

It was the “divested of everything sectional or local” part of this mission statement that caused Perry the most trouble. The Trans-Texas Corridor would cost an estimated $183.5 Billion, TxDOT’s report said, but the proposal included changes to state law that would encourage the private sector to undertake these costs and, in return, to make a profit from tolling the corridors and building any number of service facilities along them.

The necessary enabling legislation sailed through in 2003, while the state capitol was distracted by a battle over redistricting. Evidently, few legislators knew what the bill contained. By the time TxDOT began holding public meetings about the Corridor, in early 2004, the sudden possibility that private companies, some of them foreign, might exercise eminent domain to build huge swaths of infrastructure for profit took voters by surprise. Local county toll authorities in Dallas and Houston began complaining that the state was bullying them into contracts with private companies, and voters began pressuring their legislators to repeal the law that made those contracts possible.

Perry had installed his friend and fellow former legislator Ric Williamson as Chair of the Texas Transportation Commission, and Williamson (now deceased) took the kind of straight-talk, tough-love approach to transportation policy that Perry now seems to be taking on Social Security. The gas-tax system wasn't sustainable, and people needed to know it. Williamson didn’t refer to public highway funding as a “ponzi scheme,” but he did tour the state telling local officials that they had to choose between “toll roads, slow roads, or no roads.” “There is no road fairy,” both men were fond of saying.

Protesters march in Austin at the "Don&squot;t Tag Texas" rally in March, 2007. Photo by Matt Dellinger

Protesters in Austin at the "Don't Tag Texas" rally in March, 2007. Photo by Matt Dellinger

The public didn’t much enjoy the Perry Administration’s approach. David and Linda Stall, two citizens from Fayetteville, formed an online group called CorridorWatch and held a series of meetings across the state to educate the public on the details of the plan. They succeeded in whipping up outrage that at times exceeded their own: Their public appearances became rallying points for a new coalition of rural landowners, anti-“North American Union” conspiracy theorists, Ron Paul supporters, and members of the John Birch Society. The next session of the semi-annual state legislature, in 2005, was dominated by efforts to repeal the Corridor plan (which was laid to its final rest this year). State legislators, who were complicit in passing enabling legislation if not in setting the my-way-or-the-highway tone of Perry’s policy, neutered the Governor’s transportation agenda and humbled TxDOT. In the next gubernatorial election, in 2006, Perry’s unpopularity inspired independent challenges by Kinky Friedman and Carol Keeton Strayhorn (who as state comptroller had fought the Corridor), but in the end Perry won a plurality of just 39%.

Though Perry has come to embrace—and be embraced by—the conservative Tea Party movement, the motley crew that assembled to take down the Trans-Texas Corridor might be seen as its beginnings. (In fact, there were local anti-corridor groups that called themselves the Austin Toll Party and the San Antonio Toll Party.) For those who object to top-down transportation planning in America, Perry’s performance in Texas raises the question of whether starving the federal program might only multiply the problem by fifty.

Candidate Perry has yet to articulate his current vision for transportation in America, but it would seem he's equipped to do so: His campaign's policy and strategy director is Deidre Delisi, Perry's former chief of staff whom he appointed as chair of the Texas Transportation Commission in 2008, after Williamson's death. As chair (a five-year appointment) Delisi has presided over the dismantling of the Trans-Texas Corridor effort and the creation of a kinder, gentler TxDOT more committed to honoring local input.

Back in February 2005, the Governor seemed receptive to raising his state’s gasoline tax by pegging it to inflation. Evoking Sam Houston’s rousing call to pursue “a great and mighty work of national interest” would seem to suggest Perry shares with President Obama an appetite for big, bold infrastructure building. He clearly believes, or once did,  that the transportation system could use a heavy dose of additional investment—across multiple modes.

On the other hand, in 2009, he spoke out vehemently against federal stimulus, and even mused aloud that the “federal budget mess” might inspire Texans to secede from the union. According to Perry, when Texas joined the United States in 1845, he said, “one of the deals was we can leave anytime we want. So we’re kinda thinking about that again.”

Perry had his state history a little wrong. The annexation treaty did not allow for secession. It allowed Texas, if it later chose, to split into four different states—something which the local city-states of Dallas and Houston, who felt manhandled by Perry, might have longed for back in 2004.

Matt Dellinger is the author of the book Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway, which describes the Trans-Texas Corridor battle in great detail. You can follow him on Twitter.

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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: The GOP's Civil War in NH, and What it Means for Rick Perry

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Texas Tea Party has been warning Tea Partiers in other states that Perry is not the real thing.

-Steffen Schmidt, It's A Free Country blogger.

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The Takeaway

Bioethics Professors Challenge Bachmann's HPV Claims

Friday, September 16, 2011

Minnesota Congresswoman and presidential contender Michele Bachmann continues to draw criticism, after making remarks this week that the HPV vaccine is dangerous for young girls. Speaking with Matt Lauer on NBC's "Today Show," Bachmann said that a woman on Florida told her that her daughter had received the vaccine, and "suffered from mental retardation after." Public health advocates are encouraging Bachmann to provide proof of this story. And two bioethics professors have upped the ante, offering to pay more than $10,000 for medical records that prove the anecdote is true.

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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: Watching the GOP Debate—A Visit to The Twilight Zone

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The rival candidates and audience turned on Rick Perry, the frontrunner with deep Tea Party support, for his claim that if you're a young person in this country, regardless of your last name, you should have the chance to contribute to society rather than be a drag on it. He was booed.

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The Takeaway

Republicans Face Off in Tea Party Debate

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The GOP presidential candidates faced off last night before an audience of 1,000 Tea Party activists in Tampa, Florida. Gov. Rick Perry, who has surged to the front of the race since entering last month, faced heavy scrutiny from his seven challengers over his record as governor of Texas, including a state order to vaccinate girls against HPV and college tuition for the children of illegal immigrants. Mitt Romney, the other front runner, criticized Perry over his past assertion that Social Security is a "Ponzi scheme."

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The Takeaway

This Week's Agenda: Obama's Jobs Tour, First Tea Party Debate

Monday, September 12, 2011

President Barack Obama continues his jobs tour this week, with stops in Columbus, Ohio and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., rallying support for his jobs plan. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is expected to speak at a conference on regulation of systemic risk on Thursday, five days before the Federal Open Market Committee begins its meetings next week. Tonight, is the first Tea Party debate, which GOP presidential hopefuls Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry are expected to attend. And Anthony Weiner's old Congressional seat in New York's ninth district is up for grabs in a special election tomorrow.

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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: Perry Has Disrupted Bachmann, Romney Ties to Tea Party

Thursday, September 01, 2011

There is no one Tea Party, and they have no formal political party structure or candidates. They are a movement and as such they are fluid, unpredictable, and very subject to the whims of small factions.

-Steffen Schmidt, It's A Free Country blogger.

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The Takeaway

Federal Reserve Finds Increased Criticism on the Right

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Texas governor and presidential hopeful Rick Perry is not backing down from his threat against Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve. At an event in Iowa on Monday, Perry said that it would be treason if the Fed were to print more money. The Federal Reserve is no stranger from receiving criticism, but where left-wing politicians were formerly it's biggest critics, more recently conservatives like Ron Paul have been lashing out against the Fed.

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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: The Iowa Tea Partier's Case for Michelle Bachmann

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Her leadership has been instrumental in shifting the entire debate in Washington. Without Congresswoman Bachmann’s leadership an even worse sellout on the debt ceiling was inevitable.

-Ryan Rhodes, It's A Free Country blogger.

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It's A Free Country ®

London is Burning, but Austerity Measures Aren't to Blame

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

In a month of street riots, budget cuts and sovereign debt crises in London, it’s hard to resist comparisons to Greece – and indeed, if you read much of the coverage in the U.S. media it would seem that London is in the grips of a raging anti-austerity protest. But while the closure of youth programs may leave more troubled teenagers idling in town centers, it doesn’t make them anti-austerity protesters.

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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: Democrats Have Enabled the Tea Party's Toxic Economic Platform

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

There's an acceptance that somehow government needs to be smaller, the free market will provide a solution and we're all waiting for the wealth to trickle down. Both sides are saying it - the real difference is that Tea Party fanatics are acting on it with all their convictions.

-Justin Krebs, It's A Free Country blogger.

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