From its inception the Tea Party has sought "unity through ambiguity." Some of its leading Senate candidates (Rand Paul and Christine O'Donnell) have canceled appearances on major Sunday shows. Certainly their policies will devastate tens of millions of Americans and if enough voters see that, they won't be elected. A rather headless organization, it benefits from vagueness. If it had a specific platform it would lose droves of supporters.
For example, there is no consensus on aid to Israel. Some of the Tea Party vehemently opposes aid. They hold it is immoral for government to take from A and give to B and therefore would be wrong for government to take money from U.S. citizens and give to Israel. Significantly, it is for those same reasons that they oppose government welfare.
They hold that the national government should only undertake those activities that are specifically enumerated in the Constitution. They claim that because aid to Israel it not specifically enumerated as a function of our national government, even though it may be a good, charitable and life preserving activity, just as is welfare, it is simply not a role of government. Moreover, the founders strongly disapproved of "entangling alliances." The internationalism that our Israel policy necessitates has trapped the U.S. into commitments "it can neither shed nor sustain." (Andrew Bacevich)
The Libertarian-turned-Republican Ron Paul is probably the most successful politician to hold the above view. But it is supported by the very readable and excellent book, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. Their book is full of indisputable facts that will infuriate those with a libertarian- or small-government mindset. Here are facts about the most entangling alliance in our history:
* As of 2005, direct U.S. assistance to Israel amounted to nearly $154 billion ( in 2005 dollars), the bulk of it comprising direct grants rather than loans.
* In per capita terms, our aid amounts to a direct subsidy of more than $500 per year for each Israeli. Egypt, the number two recipient of our foreign aid, receives only $20 per person. The Egyptian aid can be viewed as a bribe to shape their behavior toward Israel.
* Most recipients of our aid get their money in quarterly installments, but Israel gets its entire sum in the first thirty days of the fiscal year and this costs U.S. taxpayers between $50 million and $60 million in interest payments.
* The U.S. has terrorism problems in good part because it has long been so supportive of Israel." Our support of Israel has been a very expensive liability for this nation.
Utah's most prominent representative of the Tea Party is Mike Lee. His view of Israel' aid is diametrically opposed to Ron Paul's. His platform states: "No country, including the United States, should seek to impose any agreement on Israel." This implies that though we will lavish money on Israel we should not pressure it to compromise, even though much of the world views us unfavorably because we enable Israel's illegal activities.
He is so extreme he states something that clearly indicates he is anything but a small government conservative. He says if Iran, which has over twice the population of Iraq, can't be dissuaded from its nuclear ambitions "military action would be justified." Are you ready for a massive tax increase from this balanced budget advocate?
Why should Lee, who doubts that it is government's job to provide a safety net for our citizens, feel that providing aid to Israel should take priority over aiding our own people?
The U.S., with a little less than 5 percent of the population, does about 50 percent of the world's military spending. If one wants to maintain that spending and keep a global military presence, how can we possibly have a small ,very limited government?
It is debatable exactly what the correct foreign policy should be. But what is not debatable is that those who favor a highly meddlesome internationalist policy, which entails the U.S. acting as the middle east policeman, should not portray themselves as small government proponents. Leave that to those who share the Ron Paul philosophy.
Rick Jones has taught economics.