'Tea party' founder: Why our movement will succeed -- and why it's good for America

A cofounder of the St. Louis Tea Party lays out his vision for a better America.

Imagine that the “tea party” movement continued to expand in size and influence. At some point in the future, tea partyers, regardless of political party affiliation, would dominate the executive and legislative branches of federal government. Our influence on the courts would increase. In this scenario, the tea party would eventually change the face of the federal government.

What would America look like then?

Before we answer that question, remember that no single person speaks for the tea party movement. Tea partyers hold political views that run the gamut from traditional Christian conservative to libertarian. We can’t describe a tea party future without answering the question, “Which tea partyer are you talking about?”

If we select the most common points of agreement, however, we can paint a fairly accurate picture of the changes tea partyers would likely make to our government and how those changes could alter your relationship to Washington. First let’s look at the most common themes among tea partyers.

While many local tea party organizations involve themselves in local or state issues and races, the movement’s primary interest lies in Washington. Nearly 8 in 10 Americans distrust the federal government, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll. Among tea partyers, that statistic is closer to 9 in 10. That’s important because it highlights a very important common theme: a libertarian view of Washington’s role.

Tea partyers would reduce the scope of federal power in two ways. First, we would trim federal legislation, reducing the Federal Register – the daily publication of federal rules, regulations, orders, and notices – from more than 69,000 pages to, say, 10,000 pages, as it was in 1950. Second, we would eliminate the legislative power of federal departments and agencies. The Environmental Protection Agency would no longer be able to declare the mud puddle in my backyard federally protected wetlands citing nothing more than bureaucratic fiat.

For you, this means that Washington would have less direct influence over your life. You could plan for the future knowing that your property is your property. You would not need a Washington bureaucrat’s permission to paint your house blue or to put in a swimming pool. You would not have to buy government-approved health insurance or drive a government-made car.

This change will significantly increase your personal political power. Today, Washington has undue influence over your life. And changing federal law is nearly impossible. You either have to hire an expensive team of lobbyists or convince at least half of all Americans voters to support the candidates for Congress who support your idea of reform. Do you have that kind of time and money?

Tea partyers want to restore the balance of power in America, making state and local governments more important than the federal government, as was intended by the US Constitution, and which was the case for the first half of US history. Under this arrangement, the number of people you’d need to influence to change the law drops quickly. Federalism and a smaller national government means individuals carry more power.

The Constitution lists a very limited number of activities that the United States may perform on our behalf. The tea party movement would implement a plan to phase out those activities, departments, and agencies that came about outside the amendment process of the Constitution. Expect to see the departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Veterans Affairs disappear over time. Homeland Security, which comprises some legitimate activities, would be splintered into more manageable parts.

If we want to hold on to an existing department whose mission is beyond the constitutional roles of government, then Congress and the states would have to adopt a constitutional amendment to establish that new power.

For you, this would mean far less dependency on a faceless Washington bureaucrat. No more “No Child Left Behind” dictates that teach 20th-century lessons to 21st-century students. As with all of the tea party’s ideas, this one leaves you freer than you started out.

The tea party movement is most closely associated with anger over bailouts, taxes, spending, and debt. But the financial problems our government faces are symptoms of the problems addressed earlier. Reducing the government’s onerous and unsustainable spending is both an objective and a consequence of the changes above.

In 1949, federal spending equaled 14 percent of gross domestic product (GDP); in 2009, the government spent 25 percent of GDP, a 70 percent increase. According to the Congressional Budget Office, by 2019, the national debt will equal 90 percent of GDP, a tipping point associated with harmfully slower economic growth, according to economists Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart. We aim to stop that.

Outside of defense spending, the three largest items in the federal budget – Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – would be phased out unless proponents could muster support for a constitutional amendment. These extra-constitutional programs amount to massive Ponzi schemes that fall apart without significant population growth. I would propose phasing these programs out by age, with anyone at or near retirement receiving full benefits. We want to keep the previous generation’s promise to retirees, even if that promise was illegitimate.

For you, this change means a more secure financial future, a better education for your kids, and more predictable retirement. Eventually, your federal tax burden would ease significantly. Reduced federal spending will reduce the annual budget deficits and allow us to begin paying down our nation’s massive debt.

Since 2008, the American people have paid off more personal debt than we’ve taken on. It’s time for government to apply this simple practice of household finance.

While I don’t pretend to speak for all tea partyers, I believe these reforms represent a common theme among the various factions that make up the larger tea party movement. These themes – increased personal power, a smaller federal government, fiscal responsibility, and lower taxes – carry a lot of power in the American psyche.

As tea partyers learn to translate passion and energy into electoral success this fall, we will stop and reverse our country’s recent sprint toward socialism – a sprint never authorized by the Constitution. These principles will result in some victories in 2010 and even more success in 2012 and beyond.

To ensure victory in the fall, we have formed our own political action committees and political nonprofits. These organizations give grass-roots conservatives a stronger voice in the political process.

In St. Louis, we are spreading the word by creating hundreds of tea party block captains who will recruit small teams to visit every home in the area before Election Day.

These teams will deliver a simple message and a copy of the United States Constitution, asking the people they visit to read that document and decide for themselves whether or not our government is protecting or infringing on our rights and our national promise.

Finally, I know the tea party movement will succeed because of the people who support it. When my cofounder, Dana Loesch, and I planned the first St. Louis tea party in February 2009, we hoped for a crowd of 50.

To our delight, more than 1,000 patriots filled the steps of the Gateway Arch on the banks of the Mississippi. Since then, the people of this tea party have continued to organize, influence, and grow.

Together, we are simply pilgrims on the road to that Shining City on a Hill, and we will not rest until we get there.

Bill Hennessy is a software manager, author of “The Conservative Manifesto,” and the cofounder of the St. Louis Tea Party.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.