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28 April 2010

When They Say "Freedom"

Recently, there has been liberal use of the words freedom and liberty by the Conservatives and the Right Wing in particular. When they say freedom and liberty what do they mean? First, let’s define the words:
FREEDOM: the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints
LIBERTY: immunity from arbitrary exercise of authority: political independence; freedom of choiceLiberty
Given the definitions of freedom and liberty one would think that we have the best of all lives, where everyone may speak and act freely and choose to live as they please. One would think, but that does not appear to be the case.
Freedomworks, the money behind the Tea Party Patriots, claims to believe the following:
FreedomWorks believes individual liberty and the freedom to compete increases consumer choices and provides individuals with the greatest control over what they own and earn.
Freedom for the folks at Freedomworks seems to be limited to the consumer’s freedom to give their earnings to the Capitalists. The behind- the- scenes founders of Freedomworks urged their ‘followers’ to appropriate Earth Day and turn it into a day to celebrate Capitalism. The chairman of Freedomworks is Dick Armey. Many Americans can remember that when he was a Republican member of the House of Representatives, he was accused of sexual harassment by female students of his economics classes. The sexual harassment reached the point for one student that she transferred to another school to get away from him. Later Mr. Armey and his wife were divorced and he subsequently married one of his former students. Before his retirement from Congress in 2002, Mr. Armey was the primary sponsor of the law that created the Department of Homeland Security.
The President and CEO of Freedomworks, Matt Kibbe, was an organizer for a defunct conservative political organization called Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE). CSE ceased to exist in 2004 amid controversy. The organization gained membership and more than $638,000 and 16,000 members by selling insurance policies which, unknown to those who purchased the insurance, included membership and dues to CSE. CSE split into the conservative groups Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity. Most of the $16 million funding for CSE, 85%, came from contributions by large corporations in sums of $250,000 or more each. Big companies like Exxon and Philip Morris are among the supporters of CSE. Phillip Morris alone gave $1 million when CSE fought against taxes on cigarettes.
While Freedomworks claims to stand for lower taxes and smaller government, Dick Armey played an important role in the Contract with America which resulted in numerous laws that some argue actually increased the size of government.
The Tea Party Patriots claim over 1,000 chapters nationwide, each run with the help of Freedomworks. The Tea Party Express is the bus tour that is run by an organization called Our Country Deserves Better which was created in 2008 specifically to oppose President Obama. In addition to the Tea Party Express their big money campaigns waging war against the democratically elected government include the failed opposition to health care reform they call Obamacare, stopping cap & trade, the less than impressive April 15th Tax Day March on Washington D.C., the failed effort to stop the economic stimulus package, and the failed 2008 campaign support for McCain/Palin called Stop Obama Tour. Individual targets include Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, a petition demanding the resignation of Rahm Emanuel, and defeating Harry Reid.
The Tea Party Patriots created a document that on first blush sounds like a parody of the Contract with America. Their document is called Contract from America and clearly sets out their objectives. They stand for individual liberty, limited government and economic freedom. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Who can argue against these principles?
First there is the name of the document itself: Contract from America. I’m not certain, but based on their rhetoric and the signs they proudly wave around at protests, they are not pleased with America and want to undo what rational people consider progress. Their contract seems to be an assault on individual freedom and liberty. The Contract from America addresses individual liberty in the vaguest of terms, so it is difficult to determine from the language of the document exactly what they consider to be individual liberty.
If we look outside the document to the rhetoric we can easily discern what they mean when they say freedom and liberty. The Tea Party Patriots seem to be pro- life (anti- choice may be a better description). Many of their members advocate overturning Roe v. Wade and removing a woman’s right to reproductive freedom. They are definitely against gay rights describing the struggle for gay equality as an “agenda” to teach homosexuality to children and undermine traditional religious values. The mission statement of the Tea Party Patriots includes the statement We hold that the United States is a republic conceived by its architects as a nation whose people were granted ‘unalienable rights’ by our Creator. And who defines those “rights”? It seems that they define the rights and to whom those rights apply based on the strictest reading of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and quotes from the Founding Fathers taken out of context. That doesn’t leave much room for rational humanists, secularists, atheists and agnostics when it comes to the freedom and liberty departments.
Their core principles are described as fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets. So, what has reproductive freedom have to do with those principles? How does equal rights and marriage rights for gay Americans undermine or impede their values? If you understand what the Tea Party and other conservative groups in America mean when they say freedom and liberty then you can connect the dots. Freedom and liberty for the Tea Party and conservatives in general means freedom and liberty for them as they define the terms according to religious dogma and outdated, unworkable laissez- faire economic theory. They do not want government regulation, but expect the government to stimulate job growth. They do not want health care reform, or government regulation of the health care industry but do not understand that Medicare and Medicaid are government run health care programs of which many of their members enjoy the benefits.
healthcare reform
They oppose regulation of the banking industry and other financial institutions despite the fact that out of control speculation with our money resulted in the recent near catastrophic financial meltdown. Hedge funds which are unregulated, unregulated growth of highly leveraged speculations, together with unprecedented military spending all contributed to the financial meltdown. Many economists agree that the deregulation of the financial markets begun in the 1980s under President Regan contributed to the crash.
stock market
Freedomworks, which funds and drives the basic principles of the Tea Party Patriots, supports an open door policy when it comes to free trade. They advocate no government interference with an American’s ability to buy and sell products. In December1992, President George H.W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Mexican President Carlos Salinas met in Texas and signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The Treaty was signed into law after President Clinton took office in 1994. The result of the elimination of import tariffs on goods imported from Mexico and Canada had the effect of costing the USA 29% of its manufacturing base and the loss of about 5 million jobs. Legislation calling for the repeal of NAFTA was introduced in Congress sponsored mostly by Democrats, but includes only two Republican Representatives Walter Jones of North Carolina and Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland. Freedomworks assures its readers and followers that trade deficits are nothing to worry about.
The Tea Party Patriots believe that they are independent Americans fighting for lower taxes, less government intrusion into their lives, and greater individual freedom and liberty. They are in reality unwitting, and sometimes witless, pawns for wealthy organizations like Freedomworks and the corporate money that backs such organizations. The real goal here is to further enrich the already grossly rich corporations that benefit from right wing social policies and laissez- faire economic theories that undermine the very nature of freedom and liberty. They want freedom and liberty for themselves only.
tea party
Their vision is so narrowed, so blinded by their irrational hatred of President Obama, and their misconceptions about social responsibility, that they sell their souls to Freedomworks, and in the process sell the very freedoms and liberties they think they are fighting to preserve.
Definitions from Princeton University WordNet Search Database

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