Notes from My Tea Party Talk
By David Henderson
Last Thursday I gave a talk to the Tea Party Patriots of Monterey County. I had not had much connection with local tea partiers since the speech I had given at their July 4 event in 2009. My talk was titled, “The Case Against Obama’s Big Government” and I told the organizer up-front that I would criticize not just Obama’s big-government domestic policies but also his big-government foreign policy, in particular, the major wars he has kept the United States in. My plan was to build a case against his policies and then point out how almost all his policies are follow-ons to Bush’s bad policies. That’s what I did and it worked. “Barack Obama,” I said, “is George Bush on steroids.” That got a few laughs and a lot of vigorous nodding of heads.
I had one disappointment and three pleasant surprises. The disappointment was that they opened the proceedings with the Pledge of Allegiance. Once that happens, the stage is set for thinking only within the nationalist box.
The three pleasant surprises were:
1. Turnout. I was told that because Jon Coupal, the head of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, had 80 attendees at his July talk, I should expect fewer. The actual head count for my talk: 93.
2. War. When I’m about to say something that I think a lot of people in the audience will disagree with, I usually preface it with words to the effect, “I’m about to propose something that many of you might disagree with. I would just ask you to keep an open mind and hear me out.” I did that and then proposed that the U.S. government end the wars it’s involved in and pull out of Korea, Japan, Europe, etc. The response: about 20 people broke into applause. I should add that I had, at the start, asked for a showing of hands of people who had never attended a Tea Party event and about 35 people had raised their hands. Part of the draw might have been other talks I’ve given locally, my regular interviews on KION 1460 “Mornings with Mark (Carbonaro)”, and my frequent letters to the editor of the local paper.
3. Immigration. I figured I had an audience that was very hostile to open immigration and so, when I went to present that issue, I prefaced it the same way I did the war issue. I made the point Bryan Caplan made in a recent post about how the world economy’s real GDP would more than double if all barriers to the movement of labor were eliminated. I also pointed out that not only would the immigrants gain but also many of them would gain, quoting my friend Pat Parker, who had said, years earlier, “You should have 2 servants and I should have 8.” I proposed liberalizing immigration gradually to see what happens and said:
Let’s have a huge permanent guest worker program. You can come in and stay forever but you can’t qualify for citizenship for 20 years and you can’t receive welfare, food stamps, social security, or government schooling unless you’re a citizen.
My pleasant surprise was that about 20 of them broke into applause. I then added, “And of course you wouldn’t be able to vote without being a citizen. I didn’t get to vote until 7 years after I became a permanent resident and voting was a huge disappointment anyway. I didn’t affect a single outcome.”