Some Interesting Facts
It turns out that the members of the tea party movement, on the whole, are older, wealthier and better educated than average Americans. Who would have guessed?
Thursday’s New York Times reports on a survey that gives us important, real information, not just anecdotes. Surely I wasn’t the only one to have conflated them in my mind with younger, more rebellious hot-heads, willing to chant and picket and travel long distances on buses to have their voices heard. (See, “Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated.”)
They are suffering financially less than most: “Tea Party supporters over all are more likely than the general public to say their personal financial situation is fairly good or very good. . . . But while most Americans blame the Bush administration or Wall Street for the current state of the American economy, the greatest number of Tea Party supporters blame Congress.” Presumably, that’s because Congress voted for the bail-out, the event that mobilized the tea party in the first place, and then it went on to extend jobless benefits, provide relief for home-owners, pass healthcare reform, and is now planning to re-regulate Wall Street.
According to the survey, “More than 90 percent of Tea Party supporters think the country is headed in the wrong direction. . . . Ninety-two percent believe Mr. Obama is moving the country toward socialism.”
This explains a lot. For the wealthier among us, the country truly is going in the wrong direction. The massive distribution of wealth that occurred over the past twenty years benefited them disproportionately. No doubt, many are convinced their surge of wealth was attributed to the deregulated market. But now, having more to lose than others — from increased national debt and social welfare programs that will eventually require more taxes – they want to go back to the reign of unfettered market forces that was a source of profit for them. Regulation, benefits, and debt will detract from their prosperity.
They see the contradiction of the bailout more sharply than most. Though, no doubt, many of them benefited from the successful efforts to curtail the financial catastrophe, they are more immune to the argument that failing to rescue the banks would have led to a deeper crisis. Their faith in markets leads them to believe that more banks probably deserved to fail. The government should not have prevented the markets from doing their job properly, weeding out the weak and foolish, while letting the deserving rich get richer.
Knowing who the tea partiers are helps us to understand their motives. Being wealthier, they have interests to protect, linked to several decades of free market ideology that support their beliefs. Being older, maybe they also want to kick up their heels and ventilate their frustration.
Why should only the kids have the chance to party?