Two independent discoveries.

First, several months ago I received an email from my mother regarding Tea Parties. She does not pay much attention to politics and wanted to know what they were because she was receiving emails about them from co-workers…and she is employed by the public school district (K-8) in her town.

Second, I work for the State of Georgia at a public university. I recently discovered that a co-worker is a self-described huge fan of all things Teabagging.

It's difficult to shock me these days, as my view of human nature and the intellectual capacities of my fellow Americans can scarcely be any bleaker. But I could spend a decade meditating with monks in the mountains of Tibet and still not be able to wrap my head around the idea of people who work for the government jumping on this ridiculous bandwagon.

I could expend thousands of words explaining all of the things wrong with this picture or I could do no work at all, simply linking to Teabagger writing about how much they hate government employees ("The Recession's Fat Cats: Government Employees"). Instead I will choose a path between the two. Let's keep this simple: is your primary source of income a paycheck containing any of the following phrases?

  • (State/City/County) of ________
  • ________ Public School District #___
  • United States Department of ________
  • If so, only a superhuman amount of self-complacency can get you within 100 yards of a Tea Party event. The idea that I have co-workers (as does my mother, apparently) who cannot connect the very large, close dots between government tax collection and their own salary, benefits, retirement plan, and life savings is mind boggling. Can anyone be that dumb? Yes. Of course they can.

    How? Well, it takes some mental gymnastics to turn that kind of display of raw ignorance into (what one believes to be) a consistent worldview, but it boils down to a case of fiscal NIMBYism. They see the money the government spends on their salary and benefits as good/justified/appropriate, as is the entire annual budget of whatever government agency happens to employ them. It's all that other money the government spends that is wasteful. So Mary the Public School Secretary wants lower taxes, less spending, and a smaller deficit, all of which should be accomplished by leaving the Public School budget untouched and cutting elsewhere – usually something nonspecific and illogical like "earmarks" or "pork" or "welfare." You know, shit that amounts to peanuts in comparison to A) the budget as a whole and B) the money spent employing public servants, bureaucrats, and other people receiving government paychecks.

    "Pork" and "waste" are just code words for "Government spending that does not benefit me directly." Every member of Congress sees the projects in her district as necessary – nay, indispensable – examples of appropriate government spending whereas the other 434 districts are cesspools of waste. The average American sees every tax dollar or government service that benefits them as Good Spending and everything that does not as Bad.

    In other words, most of us stopped maturing when we turned 10 and we're oblivious to how selfish we are – not to mention how little sense our political worldviews make.