Byrne on Detroit and Taibbi on the Tea Party

Once you’re done reading what David Byrne thinks of Detroit, I’d like for you to check out Matt Taibbi’s new piece in Rolling Stone. Here’s a clip from the beginning of the article, at which point Taibbi is talking about being at a Palin rally in Kentucky, surrounded by hefty middle-aged folks on motor scooters.

…After Palin wraps up, I race to the parking lot in search of departing Medicare-motor-scooter conservatives. I come upon an elderly couple, Janice and David Wheelock, who are fairly itching to share their views.

“I’m anti-spending and anti-government,” crows David, as scooter-bound Janice looks on. “The welfare state is out of control.”

“OK,” I say. “And what do you do for a living?”

“Me?” he says proudly. “Oh, I’m a property appraiser. Have been my whole life.”

I frown. “Are either of you on Medicare?”

Silence: Then Janice, a nice enough woman, it seems, slowly raises her hand, offering a faint smile, as if to say, You got me!

“Let me get this straight,” I say to David. “You’ve been picking up a check from the government for decades, as a tax assessor, and your wife is on Medicare. How can you complain about the welfare state?”

“Well,” he says, “there’s a lot of people on welfare who don’t deserve it. Too many people are living off the government.”

“But,” I protest, “you live off the government. And have been your whole life!”

“Yeah,” he says, “but I don’t make very much.” Vast forests have already been sacrificed to the public debate about the Tea Party: what it is, what it means, where it’s going. But after lengthy study of the phenomenon, I’ve concluded that the whole miserable narrative boils down to one stark fact: They’re full of shit. All of them. At the voter level, the Tea Party is a movement that purports to be furious about government spending — only the reality is that the vast majority of its members are former Bush supporters who yawned through two terms of record deficits and spent the past two electoral cycles frothing not about spending but about John Kerry’s medals and Barack Obama’s Sixties associations. The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them. In fact, their lack of embarrassment when it comes to collecting government largesse is key to understanding what this movement is all about — and nowhere do we see that dynamic as clearly as here in Kentucky, where Rand Paul is barreling toward the Senate with the aid of conservative icons like Palin.

Early in his campaign, Dr. Paul, the son of the uncompromising libertarian hero Ron Paul, denounced Medicare as “socialized medicine.” But this spring, when confronted with the idea of reducing Medicare payments to doctors like himself — half of his patients are on Medicare — he balked. This candidate, a man ostensibly so against government power in all its forms that he wants to gut the Americans With Disabilities Act and abolish the departments of Education and Energy, was unwilling to reduce his own government compensation, for a very logical reason. “Physicians,” he said, “should be allowed to make a comfortable living.”

Those of us who might have expected Paul’s purist followers to abandon him in droves have been disappointed; Paul is now the clear favorite to win in November. Ha, ha, you thought we actually gave a shit about spending, joke’s on you. That’s because the Tea Party doesn’t really care about issues — it’s about something deep down and psychological, something that can’t be answered by political compromise or fundamental changes in policy. At root, the Tea Party is nothing more than a them-versus-us thing. They know who they are, and they know who we are (“radical leftists” is the term they prefer), and they’re coming for us on Election Day, no matter what we do — and, it would seem, no matter what their own leaders like Rand Paul do…

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4 Comments

  1. Kim
    Posted September 29, 2010 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Where are the Obama Reeducation Camps that we were promised?

  2. DRich
    Posted September 29, 2010 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    I really enjoyed that David Byrne piece, maybe because I’ve been on a big Talking Heads kick lately. I guess it did include some Detroit ruin-porn, but it was a thoughtful, positive piece. Almost hopeful.

  3. DRich
    Posted September 29, 2010 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    And it was nice to be reminded of Byrne’s awesome “Playing the Building” art project.

  4. Oliva
    Posted September 30, 2010 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Yes, I loved the long David Byrne piece. Thank you so much.

    And I like it so much when Matt Taibbi is doing good (old-fashioned) journalistic work, as he’s done here. His righteous anger about the fraudulent movement is heartening. I especially liked the buildup and delivery of these lines: “. . . after lengthy study of the phenomenon, I’ve concluded that the whole miserable narrative boils down to one stark fact: They’re full of shit. All of them.”

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