There’s a documented phenomena on the political right: they’ll stand strong against something, say, government help, until they need it. Then, suddenly, it’s something that they deserve. And them alone, because they’ll go right back to protesting it after they get it. A case in point is Jenny Beth Martin, the co-founder and head of the Tea Party Patriots, who recalled her bankruptcy to the Washington Post and wound up highlighting this sort of “all for me, none for thee” hypocrisy that is rife on the political right.
The Daily Kos, quoting from the Washington Post article,says that Martin and her husband wound up owing the IRS $500,000 after their company failed. Martin, described as a “wellspring for that odd Tea Party message of anti-government self-reliance,” ended up filing bankruptcy to avoid the $500,000 in back taxes. As the Washington Post reports:
“I was very frustrated by the TARP bill, because nobody bailed us out, and we weren’t looking for a bailout,” Martin says in a coffee shop outside of Jackson. It’s a message she uses often, saying that no one bailed out her husband’s company when it failed. As for being bailed out themselves, Martin has had to publicly contend with the fact that she and her husband filed for bankruptcy, a bailout of its own sort.
Make no mistake: bankruptcy is a bailout, and that’s still $500,000 that the American taxpayers will have to pick up. But that’s okay. It’s preferable to the other option, which seems so popular today: smugly and self-righteously watching as someone drowns because they made one single mistake, because they weren’t absolutely perfect, rather than throwing them a life-preserver and saving them.
Less well known is the fact that her husband accepted unemployment for a time, something else she has explained.
“I’ve never said that there should be no safety net,” she says. “That decision was more difficult for him than the decision not to stay in our house. . . . We were scraping by.”
This is the difference between the Tea Party and the liberals. The Tea Party and those on the right-wing want the social safety net there for themselves, but not for anyone else. Liberals likewise want it there for themselves as well, but they also realize that if it exists for them, it exists for others, too, and we’ve accepted that fact. We’ve moved beyond it, integrated it into who we are into our political identity. We’re okay with people we don’t know using it.
And that’s the major difference. Tea Partiers in particular, but the right-wing in general, talks about “Democrats/Liberals spending other people’s money,” but that’s projection. They have no problem spending other people’s money on themselves, but when they’re asked to return the favor, they suddenly throw a fit.
She helped start an organization that would change all of that. At rock bottom, Martin and her husband cleaned houses to get by. Then, Rick Santelli, a CNBC commentator covering financial markets, gave his famous rant, asking viewers: “How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills?”
That resonated with Martin, as did Santelli’s use of the term “tea party.” “We were quite literally cleaning our neighbor’s house so they wouldn’t have to take care of us,” she says. Inspired, Martin and Amy Kremer, a former flight attendant also from a suburb of Atlanta, organized a conference call to talk about having such a tea party.
And she missed the point: her neighbors did take care of her. That’s what bankruptcy is. However, she took Santelli’s famous rant to heart, and the moral she walked away with was that the proper response to being briefly reliant on the social safety net is to become very angry at the mere suggestion of helping someone else. And in the end, we have an organization that seems to think even a backwards state like Mississippi offers a safety net too extensive, supports Confederate Apologist Chris McDaniel, and becomes apoplectic at the mere notion of using tax dollars for the common good.
While Martin’s lawyer told the Washington Post that she is a very busy person who works hard and “[w]hatever it is that she’s paid, it is not enough in my opinion,” the Daily Kos reports that she pays herself $450,000 a year. If it’s only true that she pays herself half that, $225,000 a year, she could pay back all of those back taxes now, and clean the record. If it’s so humiliating, then why not clean your conscience?
But I think the Right’s current motto is “screw you, I’ve got mine” for a reason. For that reason.
h/t Daily Kos