In the Tea Party’s talk of states’ rights, critics say they hear an echo of slavery, Jim Crow and George Wallace. Tea Party activists call that ridiculous: they do not want to take the country back to the discrimination of the past, they say, they just want the states to be able to block the federal mandate on health insurance.
Still, the government programs that many Tea Party supporters call unconstitutional are the ones that have helped many black people emerge from poverty and discrimination. It is not just that Rand Paul, the Republican nominee for Senate in Kentucky, said that he disagreed on principle with the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that required business owners to serve blacks. It is that many Tea Party activists believe that laws establishing a minimum wage or the federal safety net are an improper expansion of federal power.
Critics rightly note that Dr. King spoke over and over of the need for this country to acknowledge its “debt to the poor,” calling for an “economic bill of rights” that would “guarantee a job to all people who want to work and are able to work.” In Mr. Beck’s taxonomy, this would make him a Marxist.
Meanwhile, a group financed by the Koch billionaires that is also working to encourage the Tea Party events is under fire for its overtly political advertising while enjoying tax-free status.
And speaking of the Kochs, Frank Rich also wrote Sunday about the billionaires feeding the Tea Party movement. Rich suggests a simple question (will the 'baggers ever realize they are being used, ultimately to their disadvantage?):
Tea Partiers may share the Kochs’ detestation of taxes, big government and Obama. But there’s a difference between mainstream conservatism and a fringe agenda that tilts completely toward big business, whether on Wall Street or in the Gulf of Mexico, while dismantling fundamental government safety nets designed to protect the unemployed, public health, workplace safety and the subsistence of the elderly.