David Brooks, New York Times, taxes, deficit reduction, income security for all, basic income, Peaceful Positive Revolution, Steven Shafarman www.IncomeSecurityForAll.org, Steven Shafarman
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Friday, November 5th 2010

The Tea Party and the Coffee Party

The anger Tea Party activists are expressing is real, and must be respected. Our government is wasteful, inefficient, unaccountable, oppressive, dysfunctional. That’s what they’re telling us. It’s hard to disagree.

I attended the big rally they organized on the mall in Washington DC last September. I listened to the speakers and talked with attendees. I was and continue to be disappointed by the absence of specific policy proposals. Anger is not enough to build a movement that makes a real positive contribution.

Anger, moreover, is easily manipulated to serve special interests. Big special interests that are clearly seeking to exploit Tea Party anger include the Republican Party, several DC-based nonprofit organizations, and Fox news. Other special interests are more obscured, and perhaps more likely to profit. They include Wall Street, the insurance industry, weapons contractors, and the other big corporations and industries that are profiting from government paralysis.

For Tea Party activists who want to make history in a positive, meaningful way, I’ll offer some ideas toward the end of this blog post.

The Coffee Party is something I first learned about two days ago, Friday February 26, when I read a story in the Washington Post. It started with an idea from a filmmaker who lives in Silver Spring MD, who posted something on her Facebook page and made a short video which she posted on You Tube. The idea is simple: We have to get beyond the anger and engage in civil discourse about how to make our government more effective, efficient, and accountable.

Annabel Park’s Facebook friends responded promptly and enthusiastically, and a new movement is being born. The Coffee Party now has a website, with the video on the home page, and people are organizing meetings and events around the country. I attended their first meeting in Washington DC yesterday. About 40 people were there, including Annabel, and we took a picture of the group that should be posted on their web page. Some of the participants volunteered to commit 10 or 20 hours a week to the cause.

Here’s my comment from their Facebook fan page:

“I am a citizen and an active participant in We the People.” The Coffee Party is an opportunity for every American to make such a declaration.
Let’s talk with our neighbors, respectfully, with civility, about what we want for America and from our government. Effective, accountable democratic government is impossible without civil discourse.

It’s not possible to introduce new ideas into the political discourse, or to revive forgotten but still important ideas, when there is no civil discourse, when there is only anger and shouting and talking past one another.

The Coffee Party people are, wisely in my opinion, committed to civil discourse first, and therefore deferring discussions of specific policies. I hope they will eventually see the logic and power of reviving the guaranteed basic income ideas that are the theme of this website and my book, Peaceful, Positive Revolution.

Tea Party activists — those who are sincerely committed to creating a smaller, more accountable government, with lower taxes — also ought to endorse some form of basic income.  Basic income, Citizen Dividends, will make a lot of government programs superfluous, including individual welfare and corporate welfare. Every American will have a guaranteed income for food and shelter, at least, and therefore less reason to expect or demand additional aid from government. Government will be out of the business of trying to create jobs. We the People will be able to demand and get a government that is much smaller  and more accountable.

Steven Shafarman

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