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To reinvigorate Republican Party, tea party takes page from Occupy

Tea party activists have come up with 10 bills that they call the New Fair Deal – a nod to ending special interests in D.C. The plan includes privatizing Social Security and replacing Obamacare.

By Staff writer / April 15, 2013

Tea Party activist William Temple, dressed as a patriot, arrives for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., last month.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters/File

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WASHINGTON

If Republicans are going to bounce back in 2014, the tea party thinks it has the answer: the New Fair Deal.

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A dozen House lawmakers and Sen. Mike Lee (R) of Utah – backed by swarms of activists affiliated with the group FreedomWorks – are offering up a package of about a dozen proposals on Monday that are the tea party’s contribution to how the party should go forward.

While the Republican Party proposed a host of structural and strategic changes in its Growth and Opportunity report, the party committees don’t do policy. Instead, it’s up to lawmakers and energetic outside groups like FreedomWorks to fill the void.

“The thing that’s been missing is a reform agenda that excites people and gets them in the streets, that they believe can happen,” says Dean Clancy, vice president for public policy at FreedomWorks and a chief organizer of the New Fair Deal package. “What can we do to help the guys that we helped get elected in 2010 actually restore credibility for this movement.”

What’s to get the party faithful fired up? The New Fair Deal consists of 10 bills, which will include:

  • Cuts to a wide array of subsidies, with alternative energy companies, sugar growers, and high-speed rail all to get the ax.
  • A conservative alternative to Obamacare.
  • A “flat tax” system.
  • A private savings option for Social Security.
  • Tax reform to broaden the tax base.

(There’s a rich irony in the name. President Truman offered the original Fair Deal in the late 1940s, a program that not only looks like a mid-20th century version of President Obama’s current agenda but is widely credited with launching the long-running liberal drive to universal health care, opposition to which inspired FreedomWorks and the tea party movement to begin with in the summer of 2009.) 

Largely, the policies are mostly echoes of longstanding conservative rallying cries, although there are some new wrinkles such as a minimum 1 percent income tax (a nod to the 47 percent of Americans, made famous by Mitt Romney, who don’t pay federal income taxes) alongside two tax brackets around 10 percent and 25 percent.

What’s different is the language these tea party activists are using to describe it.

The problem the New Fair Deal aims to treat is also straight out of Mr. Obama’s 2012 playbook: fairness and ending the influence of special interests in Washington.

“Tea party meets Occupy on Main Street,” Mr. Clancy calls it. “We disagree with the Occupyers on a lot of the solutions, but we agree with them on the diagnosis of the problem.”

The starting point for a dialogue with potential supporters is: “ ‘Yeah, I’m frustrated that it matters so much who has the best lobbyist in Washington,' " says FreedomWorks spokesperson Jackie Bodnar. "That’s something that hurts everybody. It’s not a red or blue issue."

"This gets the ball rolling,” Ms. Bodnar says. “That’s our common ground.”

Still, it's a big sell. But FreedomWorks and tea party lawmakers are counting on an appeal to fairness to convince Americans to sign on to a plan that imposes a minimum 1 percent income tax on everyone, including poor Americans who now receive income tax refunds from the government, while potentially eliminating the corporate income tax altogether.

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