President Obama’s Tea Party Credentials

I wonder if the story of the midterm elections is what it seems:  Tea Party Rejection of President Obama’s policies ushers in a Republican agenda. 

In that story, President Obama is either the same old Washington problem, out to use tax-payer money and gov’t power for his own out-of-touch interests or an out-of-control Democrat-Socialist on a wild spending spree.  The deficit and debt represent the proof of the irresponsibility of the incumbents, and the new Republicans are the populist heroes who will reign in spending and balance the budget.

But I keep remembering candidate Obama saying “I am not doing this so I can pass the buck on the hard decisions.”  Difficult decisions are the ones where you take things from powerful people or make them pay what they cost, rather than offer give-aways.

Leave the financial crisis aside for a moment.

The current President inherited both short-term deficit spending (war, tax cuts, excess gov’t spending, etc. — unpaid for) and long term structural debt (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security going up unsustainably per existing law and future demographics).  There are sometimes reasons to borrow money, to spend now and pay off debts later, but the past decade was not WWII.  Congress simply spent more than it took in, and it gave gifts such as tax cuts and Medicare benefits by borrowing money.

Along comes Barack Obama, talking about “bending the cost curve.”  Significant in the health care reform was removing tax subsidies for generous employer-sponsored health plans. Most Americans get their insurance from employer-sponsored health plans, and this substantial reform, however unpopular, will reduce the costs and waste of excessive medical care.  Mr. Obama also approved taking funds out of Medicare.  That’s hurting doctors and potentially forcing more cost containment on publicly funded health care for seniors. 

The President also talked about reducing earmarks (the first budget under Obama contained earmarks prepared before his innauguration).  That hurts corporate interests and the politicians so aligned.   Then, Mr. Obama sought to reduce defense spending, with his Secretary of Defense standing up to criticism by congressional and corporate defense interests.

This sure seems like the long-term path of fiscal discipline. 

What I’m wondering is, could the Tea Party movement be going in the same direction as the President?  Could it be that in order to balance the budget a lot of sacrifices will have to be made?  The President started down that path. (The financial crisis brought some unexpected costs — Bush’s TARP and Obama’s Stimulus — but not a recurring give-away). Now, the Tea Party-rejuvinated Republicans are all about cutting spending.

Doesn’t that really put them in the President’s camp?  Everyone with an interst, special or otherwise, will argue for their piece of the pie.  Tea Party Republicans are proposing to reform earmarks, cut defense spending and balance the budget.  They come at the problem as if it was the government that was devouring all the money.  But if they stay in the game for long enough, they will see that it’s not that simple.

In that case, President Obama may again appear the reformer:  A leader with a clear understanding of what needs to change to create a more sustainable America, waiting for people with integrity and discipline, a willingness to sacrifice, and political courage to join the fight against a system of intrenched interests.

Marc Seltzer is also a contributor to, a weekly U.S. Supreme Court case review podcast.  A complete collection of all Marc Seltzer’s writing and podcasts is available at


patricia m lasek
patricia lasek5 years ago

Some people have made very good points here. I would really like to see the Tea Baggers align themselves with our President. If they want to make good on their campaign promises of a balanced budget and reduced spending, they will. Otherwise they will just prove that they were Republi-cants in disguise.

susan twentyeight
Past Member 5 years ago

One of his less propagandistic pieces despite the usual cheerleading tone, and something to hope for, for sure, but i'm afraid this is simply the "let's lose this one to blame our fallout on the Dems" advocated by some Repub strategists playing out.

Not that they threw the 08 election, but given the short attention span of our forcibly "educated" population it wouldn't have been a bad option and i think its proponents may consider themselves vindicated at this point.

BUT i'd make one critical correction, which is that the real payload of TARP was a blank check for the Fed to dole out as much as it wanted in the future with no voting needed like the first time. No more fear of covering up one's votes for northbound wealth transfers, TARP has future plausible deniability built right in.

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman5 years ago

thanx for article

Patricia S.
Pat S.5 years ago

Ray M,
Get with the program. George soros and his ilk is running our country, and bo is just his puppet!!!

Walter EichnerLynch

thanks for the food for thought, excellently written article.
And all you "knowitallbetterthanyou" folks: Chill out, take a pill, have your sip, go back under from where you came from, pack away your weapons.
The man started the whole article with a question. It's called thinking and weighing options. Just some info for the over-opinionated.

Grace A.
Grace Adams5 years ago

The execs of the large corps rule the country. Any President who tries to stand up to them is victim of an assassination attempt. What I hope Obama will do is negotiate with those execs for the best possible deal for the bottom 80% of the population (by income). I suspect that we would be better off if ALL the Bush tax cuts expire and the money goes to 1) Balanced budget, 2) Jobs programs--subsidized private enterprise jobs as much as possible and this time resign ourselves to keeping the last 25% of gross pay plus employer paid payroll taxes subsidy until full employment plus community service employment programs for those who can't be placed in subsidized private enterprise jobs. Execs of corps that use minimum wage labor would get some direct benefit (I hope enough for them to go along with it). Let's try some trickle up economic stimulus for a change. I also would like faster transition from fossil fuel to sustainable energy and more switch of incentives in health care from disease mismanagement to promotion of health--but I doubt funds will go that far.

Donald MacDonald
don MacDonald5 years ago

" Donald MacDonald says:

"You seem to assume a lot without any apparent real foundation..."

This from someone who thinnks elections will be voided if you don't vote.

BTW, speaking of your profile, did the Canadian designation not work either? You keep railing against the American system of government. How about you stick to Canadian affares if you hate our system so much. "

So, now that you've shown everybody your lack of knowledge on the voting protocols, you want to show them how you are able to resort to personal attack and diversion without anyone noticing ?

I say nice try, but it wasn't.

When you're outta ammo, start flingin' sh!t...right joe.

Thats my last response to you are obviously just a net troll without substance.

Joe Langer
Joe Langer5 years ago

Donald MacDonald says:

"You seem to assume a lot without any apparent real foundation..."

This from someone who thinnks elections will be voided if you don't vote.

BTW, speaking of your profile, did the Canadian designation not work either? You keep railing against the American system of government. How about you stick to Canadian affares if you hate our system so much.

Joe Langer
Joe Langer5 years ago

Jim Steve- I don't watch Fox for my information, that's for sure, and I don't watch MSN either. That narrow it down for you? It's funny how you can claim anyone proved your case, without the slightest bit of logic, intelegent thought, or evidence. You truely belong in the tea party.

Donald MacDonald
don MacDonald5 years ago

Why don't they just institute a Bohemian Grove Party and be done with it ?