Grassroots America: Looking Back, Looking Ahead
In 2010, millions of working, middle class, “tea party” patriots – grassroots Americans – who believed Washington was broken publicly expressed their dissatisfaction with the nation’s ruling class.
They were right.
Career politicians, massive bureaucracies, a strangling regulatory environment, a byzantine tax code, and revolving doors and incestuous relationships among officeholders, staff members, media and lobbyists have broken Washington.
Elected officials and bureaucrats are doing very well. Everyone else is stuck paying for their arrogance, contempt, poor judgment, and lousy results.
Politicians speak constantly, usually insincerely, about “the plight of the middle class.”
But, the costs of crony capitalism, tax loopholes, regulation and government subsidies fall heavily on the middle class. If elected officials were genuinely concerned about middle-class Americans, they would have heeded that quintessentially middle-class grassroots movement.
But neither party wanted the grassroots demonstrations to succeed, because millions of fiscally-conservative dissidents spreading discontent among fellow Americans were bad for political careers and Washington’s business as usual.
For that, the grassroots had to be silenced. And, on that, liberal Democrats and big-government Republicans agreed.
Dismissing general public alarm about deficits and the, then, “merely” $18 trillion national debt, Democrats detested the grassroots, because their demonstrations were spontaneous responses to the President Barack Obama administration’s fiscal and policy initiatives.
But big-government Republicans didn’t like them either, because the grassroots knew that, even though Obama and Democrats were at fault, Republicans, too, had increased America’s national debt.
Warranted or not, President George W. Bush prosecuted wars costing more than $1 trillion, and he signed authorization for the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), No Child Left Behind, a deficit-financed Medicare prescription drug plan, and other expensive, pork-laden legislation.
Bush Senior joined Democrats Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter as one of the, then, only three American presidents to oversee concurrent increases in defense and non-defense spending.
The nation’s debt exceeded 100 percent of America’s economy during Donald Trump’s presidency.
Indeed, both parties have impoverished America.
In 2010, grassroots demonstrations became visible, vocal manifestations of public frustration and anger. But, a united Washington’s animosities notwithstanding, the grassroots were not a threat to America.
Arguably, the grassroots better understood and cared more about America’s fiscal problems than did the invested politicians who created them.
In a political environment they believed to be stacked against productive citizens, regular Americans learned or relearned America’s founding principles: personal liberties, the rule of law, limited government, separation of powers, fiscal responsibility and free markets.
They reasonably expected physically-able, mentally-sound adults to be personally accountable and self-reliant.
As responsible citizens, grassroots enthusiasts favored assistance for the disabled and needy but doubted that every one of the nearly half of Americans who receive benefits fit into either category. They didn’t accept that eighty or more sometimes-overlapping, redundant means-tested federal programs were necessary.
To them, it was unimaginable that any Congress and president would pass and sign legislation opposed by an American majority, a la “Obamacare,” or squander a trillion-dollar “stimulus” primarily on cronies and the politically-favored.
Most accepted that some intervention may have been necessary to save America’s financial system but doubted that it had to be done on the TARP’s massive scale – and they were certain that bailing out the United Auto Workers Union with taxpayer funds allocated exclusively for the banking industry was illegal.
Rejecting the notion that amnesty for millions of unskilled illegal aliens would somehow cure poverty in America, the grassroots believed that amnesty would only depress wages at the lower end of the pay scale, including for struggling young and minority citizens.
The grassroots knew then that “redistribution of wealth” didn’t mean taking money from the wealthy and giving it to the needy so much as it meant confiscating everyone’s money so politicians could redistribute it to their cronies, supporters and donors.
Conscious of the perils of big government, the grassroots objected to elected officials having made themselves and government employees a privileged class, overcompensated and exempted from the consequences of their own policies.
Sadly, the political class prevailed. Nothing has changed – except the Biden administration has made things far worse, and the national debt now exceeds $31 trillion.
There are still grassroots “patriots” organizations active in certain local areas, but there is no broad, cohesive national movement promoting fiscal and personal responsibility.
Without one, without a concerned, engaged public, America can – will – fail.