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Still Think the Tea Party Isn’t Racist?

July 17th, 2010 No comments

There was a bit of an uproar this week over a parody letter written by Mark Williams, a right-wing talk show-host and Tea Party Express organizer. It’s a mock-letter from the head of the NAACP to Abraham Lincoln, and it was so offensive that Williams has since removed it from his website.

I’m not normally one to cry ‘racist’ at every turn, and I often think liberal groups go too far in condemning relatively benign things (like the Chimp Cartoon, for example) but the racism in this letter is so blatant that not even other conservatives could legitimately defend it. It doesn’t merely cross a line—it rips the line to shreds and shits all over it. The only more blatant form of racism than this is that of the Ku Klux Klan variety that claims blacks are genetically inferior to whites. This doesn’t go quite that far, but it comes close.

I’m going to post the whole letter and respond to each section because I believe it provides invaluable insight into how these Tea Partiers think, but first a bit of context. Last week, Ben Jealous, the head of the NAACP called on Tea Party leaders to denounce racism within their ranks. He wasn’t asking for much—merely for the Tea Party to admonish people who carry racist signs and shout racial slurs at rallies. You’d think the Tea Party would welcome this opportunity to push back against the Big Bad Liberal Media’s incessant charges of racism, but instead they dove in head first.

Here’s how Mark Williams imagines Ben Jealous would have addressed President Lincoln:

Dear Mr. Lincoln

We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!

Remember, this is a leader of the Tea Party Movement, attempting to cater to his Tea Party base. As such, it provides non-Tea Partiers with insight into how Tea Partiers think. And one of the things that many of them think is that black people were better off under slavery. I’ve talked to people who genuinely believe that. Mark Williams wouldn’t be writing this if he hadn’t had that conversation too.

In fact we held a big meeting and took a vote in Kansas City this week. We voted to condemn a political revival of that old abolitionist spirit called the ‘tea party movement’.

And one paragraph later we get this completely contradictory and laughably absurd claim that the Tea Party Movement would have been on the side of the abolitionists!

The tea party position to “end the bailouts” for example is just silly. Bailouts are just big money welfare and isn’t that what we want all Coloreds to strive for? What kind of racist would want to end big money welfare? What they need to do is start handing the bail outs directly to us coloreds! Of course, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is the only responsible party that should be granted the right to disperse the funds.

Again, this is valuable insight into Tea Party thinking. They associate the bailouts with welfare—with handouts to lazy black people.

And the ridiculous idea of “reduce[ing] the size and intrusiveness of government.” What kind of massa would ever not want to control my life? As Coloreds we must have somebody care for us otherwise we would be on our own, have to think for ourselves and make decisions!

Their opposition to Big Government also has a racial element. Apparently liberals want to expand the size of government in order to tell everyone what to do, and since blacks long for the good old days of slavery when they could just relax and let “massa” make all the decisions, they’re totally in favor of a more intrusive government.

The racist tea parties also demand that the government “stop the out of control spending.” Again, they directly target coloreds. That means we Coloreds would have to compete for jobs like everybody else and that is just not right.

In the mind of a Tea Partier, no black person could possibly have earned his or her position due to merit. It was all affirmative action, from Barack Obama to Al Roker—these people just sat on their asses their entire lives while success was handed to them by guilt-ridden liberals trying to make up for slavery.

Perhaps the most racist point of all in the tea parties is their demand that government “stop raising our taxes.” That is outrageous! How will we coloreds ever get a wide screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn? Totally racist! The tea party expects coloreds to be productive members of society?

One—black people pay taxes too, moron. Two—not all black people are obsessed with bling. Many spend their money wisely, asshole. Three—you want to talk about who is and who is not a “productive member of society”? Look in the mirror, you despicable worm. Your job is to spout propaganda that misdirects the anger of white people away from the system of corporate dominance that harms them and towards progressive organizations that are actually advocating reforms that would help them. At a time when this country desperately needs well-informed Economic Warriors, you deliberately-divisive Culture Warriors are the least productive members of society around!

Mr. Lincoln, you were the greatest racist ever. We had a great gig. Three squares, room and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house. Please repeal the 13th and 14th Amendments and let us get back to where we belong.

Sincerely

Precious Ben Jealous, Tom’s Nephew NAACP Head Colored Person

America can be neatly divided into two categories or people—those who read this and laugh, and those who read this and want to go out and punch someone. “Tom’s Nephew”—I mean, seriously. This unbelievable piece of shit Mark Williams claims in no uncertain terms that blacks were happier as slaves, and has the audacity to suggest that they are the ones being racist!

Even after removing the letter from his site, his explanation clearly shows that he still doesn’t have a fucking clue what people were so upset about. He seems to think it was over his use of the word “colored”. But it was just satire, he cries in his defense. He was highlighting the irony of how an organization so concerned with political correctness—the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People—uses the word “Colored” in its acronym:

I would suggest to those offended by the term “Colored People” (the phrase that made my article so controversial) please contact the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and join me in calling for an end to their use of the racial slur

Mark Williams, you are a fucking idiot. Your letter wasn’t racist because you used the word “colored”. It was racist because you suggested that black people were better off as slaves, that any successful Africa-Americans didn’t earn their success but were given it by affirmative action, and that they’re all lazy, unproductive members of society who leech off white people’s tax money.

In one regard, at least, Mark Williams has done Tea Party-opponents a favor. As long as the Tea Party Express refuses to fire him and publicly condemn what he said, it can no longer pretend that it’s not a racist organization. You can let them know by going here.

Republicans’ Magical Deficit Thinking

July 17th, 2010 No comments

Republicans have a little problem. They’re campaigning on a platform of deficit-hysteria, insisting that the reason they’re blocking all of Obama’s legislation is because it saddles our grandchildren with too much debt. There are two things wrong with this picture:

1- They refuse to consider cutting so much as one penny from the defense budget, which makes up more than half of all discretionary spending:

2- They want to make the Bush tax-cuts permanent—the tax cuts which, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, are the single biggest factor in the inflation of the deficit:

Last week, Senate Minority whip John Kyl was rightly pounced on by democrats for suggesting that while things like unemployment benefits need to be paid for, things like tax cuts pay for themselves. And this week, he was backed up by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell:

That’s been the majority Republican view for some time,” McConnell told TPMDC. “That there’s no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue, because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy. So I think what Senator Kyl was expressing was the view of virtually every Republican on that subject.”

Sadly, many Americans are just too stupid to understand why this argument is so insanely, laughably ridiculous. I’ll try to explain it in simple terms.

The deficit is the revenue the government takes in minus the money the government spends: Revenue – Spending = Deficit.

If the government takes in $10 and spends $15, the deficit = $5.

There are two ways to reduce the deficit: Increase revenue, or decrease spending. Republicans want to decrease spending, but not on the thing we spend most of our money on (war). And when it comes to revenue, republicans want to decrease it.

That’s right: Tax cuts = decreased revenue. Decreased revenue without decreased spending = increased deficit.

Congressional republicans would fail 1st-grade mathematics.

Tim Geithner vs. Elizabeth Warren

July 17th, 2010 No comments

Financial reform legislation is hurtling towards final passage, severely watered down and riddled with loopholes. Most economists agree that it’s not strong enough to prevent another crisis and does nothing to end Too Big Too Fail which makes taxpayer bailouts a necessity. The only silver lining in this cloud is the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, a government watchdog to keep an eye on Big Industry for the sake of average Americans. Among this agency’s many responsibilities would be to make sure credit card companies are straight with their customers, that they don’t hike up interest rates too quickly or charge excessive lateness penalties—things every credit-card user would appreciate.

Whether or not this agency will have any teeth depends to a large degree on who is in control of it. Most of the regulatory power in this bill goes to the treasury secretary, currently Wall Street’s favorite tool: Tim Geithner.

The effort to dramatically expand financial regulation bears the stamp of no one more than Geithner. The bill not only hews closely to the initial draft he released last summer but also anoints him — as long as he remains Treasury secretary — as the chief of a new council of senior regulators. The legislation also puts him at the head of the new consumer bureau until a director is confirmed by the Senate, allowing Geithner to mold the watchdog in coming months. And it will be up to him to settle a raft of issues left unresolved by the bill — for instance, which financial derivatives will be subject to the tough new trading rules and which risky activities big banks will be required to spin off.

Every step of the way, Geithner has fought against the strongest provisions in the bill. He opposed breaking up the banks, he opposed the Lincoln amendment to regulate derivatives, and he even opposed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which he gets to control and mold in the interim before Obama appoints someone else to be in charge.

Progressives want Elizabeth Warren, the current chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel where she’s been a strong and consistent advocate for transparency and accountability. Not only that, she has a knack for boiling complex financial issues to the core and explaining them with crystal clarity:

If she were put in charge of the Consumer Protection Bureau, there’s good reason to believe she’d give Wall Street a run for their money. So naturally, Tim Geithner is opposing her nomination. Geithner’s philosophy is to do as little regulation as possible and let Wall Street handle itself. If it were up to him, there would probably be no financial reform whatsoever.

Now, Obama is once again put to the test. Simon Johnson, author of 13 Bankers, says this can only go two ways: Will he actually listen to progressives for once and appoint Warren to head the new agency (outcome #1), or will he side with his Treasury secretary, as he has done nearly every step of the way so far, and appoint someone else (outcome #2)?

Despite the growing public reaction, outcome #2 is the most likely and the White House needs to understand this, plain and clear – there will be complete and utter revulsion at its handling of financial regulatory reform both on this specific issue and much more broadly. The administration’s position in this area is already weak, its achievements remain minimal, its speaking points are lame, and the patience of even well-inclined people is wearing thin.

Indeed, Obama has been throwing progressives under the bus repeatedly since the beginning of his administration, and progressives have been remarkably patient thus far. But we’re not buying the line that this is the most sweeping reform since the Great Depression, and we don’t believe for a second his blatant lie that this reform means there will never be another bailout. If he sides with Geithner over his base yet again and appoints some weak-kneed tool of the industry to head the Financial Protection Bureau, that will be the last straw for many.

Unfortunately, it’s entirely possible that Obama will stick with his strategy of pleasing Wall Street at the expense of progressive goals because he knows progressives have nowhere else to turn in November. He keeps throwing us under the bus because he knows we could never vote republican, so he might as well keep those Goldman Sachs campaign contributions flowing. If you want to help send him the message that we’re not going to let him kick us around anymore and he’d better appoint Warren, you can sign the petition here.