In the beginning, early 1775 let’s say, our political leaders – white, ruling-class, European Christians, if you don’t count Deists, agnostics, and atheists – hoped to create a nation that offered economic justice for all its citizens. That justice would be reinterpreted in the course of our economic history – including conflicts between rural and citified citizens – changing as the nation changed, to include economic justice for people of color, women, rich and poor, even people of various faiths and beliefs. As life became more complicated, and people became more self-centered, economic justice for everyone became everyone for himself. “What’s mine is mine,” became the mantra of many. “Take what you can get,” became the goal for some. And those of us who still believed in economic justice for all became “Liberals."
Today we define economic justice in terms of the percentage of taxes the government requires each of us to pay for the protection, health, and education of us all. Our government is responsible for drugs (FDA), health (finally), public schools, and more. Our government of the people and for the people hears our various complaints about who gets what, and the majority wins. Well, not always. Too often, our elected representatives buy their way into government with corporate cash, undisclosed contributions, and PACs of special interest groups, then begin to represent their wealthy sponsors. We just stamp our feet and walk out of the voting booth.
Tea Party Republicans don’t believe in the concept of taxation. They want to keep what they earn: all of it. They say taxes are a form of theft, which they reluctantly tolerate, but they hate anyone or any party that tries to tell them how much they “owe” in taxes. They “owe” nothing! They would prefer to rely on charity and the free market to fund hospitals, highways, the electrical grid, global warming, elections, public lands – everything, it seems, except the military – just ask Grover Norquist.
Laissez-faireism – let the free market preside without government interference, restrictions, regulations or even philosophical objections or comments; it’s our way, or no way – is the ultimate goal and operating principal of the Tea Party. Norquist’s party can’t abide any form of government interference. They will, however, rely on our rudimentary knowledge of market economics, and our deer-in-the-headlights reaction to the words “free market,” in order to shoot down any progressive opposition that stands in the road.
Here’s the thing: if we all agree there should be economic justice for all, and our goal is to eliminate poverty, we should aim for a basic minimum, state-mandated income for every adult, not just a minimum hourly wage that is often ignored. This is, admittedly, a radical proposal, but not a new one, and would almost certainly increase taxes. In the philosophical war between socialism and capitalism, there are opportunities for radical thinking.