President Obama recently compared the Tea Party to the Occupy Wall Street protests, telling ABC News’ Jake Tapper, “in some ways they’re not that different.” We beg to differ. The Tea Party and the protesters are almost exact opposites.
The president has a dilemma. He sympathizes with the protesters because many of their goals are also his. He thus wants to associate the occupiers with the Tea Party, a movement that has resonated with the American people.
But there’s the rub. Mr. Obama identifies with the occupiers because, as pollster Doug Schoen put it, they reflect “values that are dangerously out of touch with the broad mass of the American people … and are bound by a deep commitment to radical left-wing policies.”
That’s not the Tea Party. That’s the opposite.
Unlike the occupiers, the Tea Party has a unifying set of principles. Those are articulated clearly in America’s founding document, the Constitution. It lays out a system for limited government, delegating specific powers to elected leaders and prohibiting them from exercising responsibilities beyond these enumerated powers.
The Tea Party’s heroes are therefore the Founding Fathers. The Tea Party is all about the small-government, personal responsibility and conservative philosophies espoused by Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk and Milton Friedman.
The Tea Party is not an anarchist, anti-government group. We agree with Barry Goldwater that “the legitimate functions of government are actually conducive to freedom. Maintaining internal order, keeping foreign foes at bay, administering justice, removing obstacles to the free interchange of goods - the exercise of these powers makes it possible for men to follow their chosen pursuits with maximum freedom.”
The Tea Party reveres the values of this country: respect for the law and private property, freedom of expression, assembly and religion, self-government, self-sufficiency, hard work, and the belief that the family - not the federal government - is the major institution in society. We know America’s success stems directly from these values. It’s what sets America apart from all others.
The vast majority of occupiers we’ve heard would divert America from its historic course. Their hero, judging by their T-shirts, seems to be more Che Guevara, a psychopathic killer, than Madison, Jefferson and Franklin.
Let’s analyze how the protesters’ demands would make our country less free and more dependent on an ever-growing government.
Heading their “99 percent declaration” is the demand for a ban on political contributions by individuals and political speech by associations and groups, including companies and unions.
Such a change would leave us less free and show a woeful contempt for the First Amendment. As the Supreme Court rightly found in the Citizens United case, this is about the right to engage in free speech, particularly political speech, and the right to freely associate. The court rejected the idea that the government can decide who gets to speak and ban some from speaking at all, particularly those speaking through associations of members who share their beliefs. This is about one of the fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights.
The occupiers decry bailouts, but they seem to reject them only for companies and industries they don’t like. Their grab-bag of special interests looks like Mr. Obama’s, including a special exemption for any corporation that claims to be “green.” Meanwhile they want to give authoritarian powers to the Environmental Protection Agency “to shut down corporations, businesses or any entities that intentionally or recklessly damage the environment.”
The list of baddies is long and predictable: the pharmaceutical industry, “corporations engaged in perpetual war for profit,” the “fossil fuel industry.” Sound familiar?
The Tea Party represents - and respects - America. The occupiers may be well intended, but their demands would be very different from what the Founding Fathers gave us and would dramatically change America.
Any comparisons between the Tea Party, which desires to liberate “We the People” from big government, and the Wall Street occupiers, who want more government regulation, is either misguided or made to intentionally confuse Americans.
Ed Feulner is president of the Heritage Foundation (heritage.org). Billie Tucker is co-founder of the First Coast Tea Party.
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