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Poison at the Tea Party

Posted on Oct 26, 2010
Flickr / Susan E Adams (CC-BY-SA)

By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

In their zeal to live free from outside interference, the tea parties are shooting at the wrong target.

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They would be right to be angry with an oil industry poisoning their water, an auto industry polluting their air and agribusiness providing unsafe food.

Instead they are attacking the government, the only entity that can protect their water, their atmosphere, their food.

Powerful corporate interests are taking advantage of tea party anger for their own self interest. They are funneling vast sums to fuel and steer an anti-government campaign that would gut the rules protecting people from dangerous products and the environment from poisonous emissions.

What if they succeed? Just consider the menu at their tea party: Scrambled eggs with salmonella, a cup of arsenic-laced tea and orange juice with a dash of cryptosporidium in the ice cubes. And if you are driving to the party in your SUV, watch out that it doesn’t roll over.


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The tea partyers issue dire warnings of the threat posed by government, but their movement ignores the threat from corporate America: pollution, dangerous products and banking practices that brought us the worst economic crash since the Great Depression.

Sharron Angle, the Republican Senate candidate in Nevada, proposed removing government-ordered fluoride from drinking water. But is she expressing similar concern about toxic chemicals corporate polluters put in her tea?

Glenn Beck has whined about government money sending SUVs to the scrap yard thanks to the “cash for clunkers” program. Would he prefer that the clunkers remain on the road?

The critics of government should refocus their energy: They should challenge the corporate interests that produced trucks posing rollover risks, rather than challenge a government that protects us from rollovers.

We need a government that tells automakers to not ignore new energy efficiency technology and to produce safe SUVs that do all they do now but pollute less, cut our addiction to oil and save money at the pump.

Why are the tea partyers hostile to government but friendly to big business?

Maybe it has something to do with where much of the tea party money comes from, including major oil interests. The owners of Koch Industries, sitting on multibillion-dollar oil fortunes, have provided what Politico says may total millions of dollars in as-yet-undisclosed contributions to tea-party affiliated groups. Koch Industries is a major player in oil refining and transportation.

The Environmental Protection Agency assessed Koch Industries a record civil fine—$30 million—in 2000 for “egregious violations of the Clean Water Act”: more than 300 oil spills from its pipelines and oil facilities. No wonder Koch’s agenda does not mesh with that of the EPA.

Chemicals in the drinking water? If government doesn’t protect us, who will?

Bacteria in the food supply? How would we even know about salmonella in our eggs if there was no government cop on the beat?

If we tie the hands of what tea party activist and Oklahoma state Sen. Randy Brogdon calls the “tyrannical federal government,” who benefits?

The winners will be those with an excessive zeal for profit and “freedom” from proper constraints: automakers who want to make vehicles that are unsafe and pollute too much, the bankers and Wall Streeters who brought us the housing and financial crises, and polluters who would relieve themselves—or their factories’ poisons—into the public’s air, land and water.

Corporate America doesn’t protect Americans; doing away with the government watchdogs that do would make sure no one protects us. The losers would be children, public health—all of us, including the tea partyers themselves.

We’d have Wall Street monitored by a shut-eyed Securities and Exchange Commission, look-the-other-way cops running the Environmental Protection Agency, and a Food and Drug Administration passing on filthy food and dangerous drugs to the kitchen table and our medicine cabinets.

We’d be better off dumping tea like that in the harbor. Fortunately, the government won’t let us.

Dan Becker is director of the Washington-based Safe Climate Campaign, which advocates strong measures to fight global warming. James Gerstenzang is the campaign’s editorial director.

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LocalHero's avatar

By LocalHero, October 30, 2010 at 3:38 am Link to this comment

This article makes me puke. I’m certainly no fan of the Tea Party folks but the wimpy, who-will-save-us-if-government-doesn’t tone of this tripe is childish.

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By S. Barksdale, October 28, 2010 at 1:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Becker and Gerstenzang should have this wise essay on the front page of every newspaper in the country!  They’ve put the teabaggers on the spot where it hurts; with truth, and every American needs to read it.

Indeed, Americans need to take to the streets in opposition to this bunch of rabble rousers.  The majority of members don’t have the brains god promised a chipmonk and if they should succeed in putting their party of choice in leadership we can say goodbye to traditions we’ve long cherished; that of clean food and water,  safe transportation and reasonably clean air to breathe, among many more products most of us need daily.

It has been said numerous times and I’ve said it before, too, but what we need more than anything is an environmental candidate who will ensure a beginning to the massive clean-up we need.  This includes the environment and the ouster of criminals in government.

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By Matzpen, October 27, 2010 at 4:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If we are going to stop the Tea Baggers, or win any real Change for that matter, it’s Not going to be through the ballot box and voting for the Democrats, but through the protesting against them in the streets

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By gerard, October 27, 2010 at 12:21 pm Link to this comment

Well there you go!  Chris became Christ.  So sorry folks, but sonoer or later somebody would do it. That may be what I think unconsciously somewhere deep down, but I certainly don’t think it consciously. Oh, well ... better luck tomorrow?

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By joe, October 27, 2010 at 12:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

QuantumBubbler—That is not a score 1 for the tea party.  That is a score -1000 for the USA.  I think we can agree on many of the problems(Bad drugs, bad water, bad food, bad wall street….).  Maybe we disagree on the solutions.  I think eliminating or cutting regulation(EPA, SEC, FDA,...) as the tea party wants would only make these problems worse.  The solution(we probably disagree), I think, is making regulation stronger giving us the things all of us want such as: clean water, healthy food, no wall street shenanigans…

I see the jobs/cost argument coming so here goes.
healthy food, clean water, good drugs keep people healthy thereby reducing medical costs and saving money. That would at minimum pay for the extra regulation and extra time/money business have to put into meeting the regulation. 

Heck just being able to drink tap water would save tons of money.

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By kajsa, October 27, 2010 at 9:44 am Link to this comment

If I hear one more person begin their sentence with “That said,” I’m going to go nuts.  This is verbiage, as if we don’t understand.  That said, thanks for letting me blow off steam.

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By QuantumBubbler, October 27, 2010 at 8:25 am Link to this comment

As you summarized in your next to the last paragraph:

“We’d have Wall Street monitored by a shut-eyed Securities and Exchange Commission, look-the-other-way cops running the Environmental Protection Agency, and a Food and Drug Administration passing on filthy food and dangerous drugs to the kitchen table and our medicine cabinets.”

We do!

Tea Party 1,Becker/Gerstenzang 0

Keep up the bad work!

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By gerard, October 27, 2010 at 12:41 am Link to this comment

REDHORSE:  You are so right: “meaning is in experience.”  Watching that video of Christ Hedges and the discussion panel, it is so clear that people rely mostly on personal experience for their beliefs.Christ comes off as much more knowledgeable because much more widely experienced than the others.Yet they all speak of their beliefs out of personal experience.  I couldn’t help but realize again that the narrowness of the general Tea Partier experience shapes their belief, and accounts for their fear, their political beliefs and their behavior. Everybody on the video panel held to his belief from beginning to end, as do most of us, and it is doubtful whether any of us really “hears” the others.  In that respect we are all “tea partiers” and the question becomes how do we overcome our own experiential limitations and really “hear” others?
  I had a friend in Santa Barbara who, late in her life, discovered from her experiences with nonviolence that learning to listen was one of the big secrets.  Lord help me listen!  For I am one of the worst listeners in the world.  I have no idea how to listen to Tea baggers!  Or corporate robbers.

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By purplewolf, October 27, 2010 at 12:09 am Link to this comment

You can’t reason or argue with an idiot. And the Tea Party falls into that category.

If these unqualified hacks do manage to win in their elections and they set about dismantling the things they claim they will, they will be the first ones shouting the loudest when everything we currently use now are gone,eliminated,fall into total disrepair from lack of upkeep,like the roads, safety, etc… the list goes on. Bet those with school age children will be thrilled when they are home all day once the eliminate the board of education and try to privatize schools(obviously they did not take advantage of the public one provided for them in their youth)that will cost a fortune.What about grandma? She needs 24/7 care which you cannot afford since Social Security was ended and she is costing too much money. Oh yeah! Let the death panels begin.

These people fail to realize that everyone cannot afford to pay for all the things we currently take advantage of currently paid for from our tax dollars if needed services become “privatized” as the Repugs and their ilk have been trying since Bush’s first 4 years. Especially if they eliminate minimum wage or lower it to less than $2/hr. Do they actually think that these companies will charge a reasonable and affordable price for the services we would all have to use to replace what we have now? And we all know that these companies will not have available staff to cover large emergencies and they will in fact work with lower than skeleton staffing levels and unsafe equipment as there will be no watchdogs known as government regulation now. Don’t think so? Look at any nursing home in America.They only have legal staffing levels when being inspected by the states, announced visits give several months notice and unannounced visits give a 3 day warning that they will be inspected. On that day there are the proper staffing levels for that day only. Then after the inspection the staff levels go back to sub-standard levels.I know this from work experience since the late 60’s.Yep!Self regulation,don’t you just feel all safer already?

Every service like fire,police,road workers,snow removal,health departments,schools,garbage pick-up, parks,street lights fixed,libraries-but we don’t need them now do we?-the over bloated military-gotta have that you betcha-in case some other country thinks they want to invade us after the chaos has destroyed this country,affordable and safe food,safe water,you can add to this list forever. And if you have to work several jobs, because these companies will pay you as little as possible to survive and you have kids, you will need to have someone care for them when you are working,but you won’t be able to afford that either as everything you need to survive on cost several times more than you make on all of your jobs-and don’t forget you will still have to pay taxes too,but now you will definitely be taxed with our representation since the Repugs, GOP’ers and T.P.ers are in bed with the mega corps who are hellbent on destroying America in the name of greed. To hell with the “little people.”

Then you will see how well these morons have thought this whole thing out once they take over. And if they don’t win on Tuesday, they will probably try out their 2nd amendment rights as Sharon Angle has boasted.

Have these people ever heard of treason?

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By RayLan, October 26, 2010 at 10:39 pm Link to this comment

Only in American stupidity has a chance. in the person of Angles, and O’Donell.

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By FiftyGigs, October 26, 2010 at 9:09 pm Link to this comment

“critics of government”

Are spoiled.

Raised in a land of immense affluence, they’ve chosen a pseudo-populist pop philosophy, a counter-culturalism couched in nationalistic, spiritualistic, capitalistic rhetoric.

It’s play time.

They know they’ll wake up tomorrow with plentiful water for their jacuzzi, fast food down the street, and an unlimited opportunity to gain attention by shockingly advocating everything and anything our forebears found abhorrent in a civilized society.

In that pursuit, they gain pleasure from the challenge of convincing people that what is false is “really” true, because doing so provides vivid proof to themselves that they might be of consequence.

Newt Gingrich: It doesn’t matter what I do.

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By Seth, October 26, 2010 at 8:13 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You conveniently ignore that the Tea Party movement started as a Ron Paul
fundraiser and, even though it has been somewhat co-opted by neo-cons, it
remains very much influenced by Ron Paul libertarians. What defines a Ron Paul
libertarian from any other kind of libertarian, well to start, they are extremely anti-
corporate. In fact, most of them don’t recognize the right of governments to grant
corporate charters at all. Please, do your homework before you start painting
everyone with the same brush. I thought we got over that sometime back in the

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By PatrickHenry, October 26, 2010 at 7:19 pm Link to this comment

I have no problem with a 3rd party, I wish we had more. 

A broader representation of America is needed than our present one.

I plan to vote all encumbents out this Nov 2nd.

I’ll vote for the guy or gal I’ve never heard of.

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By Lonnie, October 26, 2010 at 6:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Corporations lobby to government to pass legislation that allows them to do the things they do.  The FDA only allows approvals to companies that can pay.  They don’t care if what they are approving is safe.  Just look at all the wonderful recalls from all the drugs they approve that make the pharmaceutical companies billions and pay out a few million when it kills a bunch of people.  Don’t kid yourself, if you get big government out of private companies then the free market can do it’s job and competition can assure the best quality for the lowest price.  Companies would spend their own money and concern making sure their products were safe because if they didn’t, it would be business suicide.  Let’s not forget the EPA who one day after 9/11 told the workers the air was safe to breath, knowing it wasn’t, just so they could re-open wallstreet.  Yeah, their goals are to protect us.

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By jjohnjj, October 26, 2010 at 5:50 pm Link to this comment

Let’s not be fooled here. The “Tea Party” is nothing but a loose association of right-wing Republicans.

These are people who have always voted straight-ticket Republican, and now refuse to acknowledge any responsibility for the debacle their party led us into.

So let’s call them what the are: “Tea Puppet Republicans”.

That said, we need to look at their incapacity to hold two ideas in thought at the same time. They say they’re in favor of “personal responsibility”. Well guess what? Liberals favor personal responsibility too!

The difference is that Liberals favor personal responsibility AND social responsibility.

Tea Puppets don’t seem to be capable of grasping this. In their restricted “either/or” worldview, social responsibility must become the antagonist of personal responsibility.

Liberals believe that we can have clean air AND corporate profits. That’s just too much for the bipolar mind of the Tea Puppet. They insist that public demands for clean air diminishes corporate “freedom”.

And “freedom” is another absolute. Either you’re totally 100% free, or you’re not really free at all!

At least that’s what they’ve been sold. Perhaps we can liberate them from their monochrome thinking and help them enter a world of greater possibilities.

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By Reverend Lauren Unruh, October 26, 2010 at 5:30 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


What do you want me to do?

The Tea Party was all my idea and is actually doing exactly what I wanted it to
do, expose how corrupt the system was. Now I let them flounder for awhile,

So you don’t like my method, tell me what to do instead. I recommend you
come do it at AlterNet, as that is where I argue policy so I’m more likely to
notice you there.

Sister Lauren
New Ideas Extraordinare
THC Ministry

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By REDHORSE, October 26, 2010 at 5:19 pm Link to this comment

It took two people to write this article? It’s all true of course. I agree with all of it.

  I hear you GERARD. Probably sounds silly, but I really am “trying to see and feel” my fellow Americans when I venture out. It’s instructive. It makes me a living active part of a living active environment.

    My belief that meaning is in the experience is my motivation. And, the attempt to “see” a fellow human not project pre-programmed “otherness” is the basic change I’m trying for. It helps ME grow. And sometimes, the real “light” of America that shines from the connection of two overcomes the maufactured darkness that subsumes so many.

    You are correct in asking for active unity and action in common purpose. Whatever was is gone. It’s time to lend a hand in building a new future.

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By gerard, October 26, 2010 at 3:46 pm Link to this comment

SO ....  ? Since most of us on TD know these things all too well…  What we don’t seem to know is what to do about it.
  Why not dig up some activist article on a practical approach to defusing the Teaparty effect? They are the ones who need to read this article.
  What we need to know here is suggestions from orgs experienced in non-violent resistence, and from people at IndyMedia or Wikileaks or Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. Or advice from experienced social activists on how to counteract fear and ignorance in the right wing.
  As the election approaches it seems more and more like the left is totally out of ideas and has little or no intention of exerting any effort short of moaning and groaning. 
  You’d think there was nothing between civil war and going to sleep for 40 years, when as a matter of fact neither alternative is moral and both are counter-productive. Talk about “drinking the cool aid!”

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