Brian Dickerson and I rarely agree on issues, but his article today highlighting the foolish and hypocritical actions of a few Michigan legislators that nearly scuttled the expansion of Medicaid to include nearly half a million of Michigan’s working poor was spot-on. Dickerson rightly observed the actions of Tea Party legislators such as Jack Brandenberg, John Pappageorge and Phil Pavlov, are not only profoundly stupid, but hypocritical as well. All of the Tea baggers voted against a necessary expansion of Medicaid out of what they claimed were principles against government expansion. Yet all of them also voted for life-time medical benefits for themselves (and none have refused other expensive perks at our expense either).
What Dickerson left unsaid was that the Tea Party in Michigan is just a few votes short of a critical mass required to cause some real damage to our society. This coalition of the angry and insane was founded by corporate billionaires such as the Koch brothers via The Heritage Foundation/Freedom Works with the goal of organizing opposition to health care reform. Adopting Libertarian rhetoric, they quickly recruited from the fringes of society, right wing nuts such as racists, religious fanatics and gun nuts who could barely contain their hatred (remember the signs they brandished – along with their guns – during the health care reform debate?). The Heritage Foundation/Freedom Works has no compunction against using fringe groups to promote their corporate agenda, but somewhere along the way they found a way to exploit the fears of mainstream citizens: people fearful of losing their jobs, people who just lost their pensions, etc. The evil spawned by the corporate germ grew a life of its own and now we all have to deal with society’s real mad men, including Republicans who act like they suddenly realized they were in the same party as political suicide bombers.
Many people in the Tea Party are well meaning, but easily misled. Some people are so frightened and angry that they refuse to acknowledge reality when it conflicts with their emotions. When a political party coalesces around fear and anger, it is vulnerable to demagogues and sociopaths. Thus we have men who oppose common sense measures like expanding Medicaid while voting to give themselves life-time medical coverage and generous pensions.