Why business leaders don't trust the tea party movement

October 20, 2010 

U.S. business leaders like the tea party call for a government return to fiscal austerity, but they also value stability and pragmatism in politics. That's why the tea party movement's insistence on ideological purity can be frightening. Sarah Palin is on the cover of the current edition of Bloomberg Businessweek, but it's not necessarily an endorsement of her or the tea party. "The tea party's small-government slogans may be appealing, but its policies could throw the U.S. economy into chaos," says the cover story's intro.

Through a combination of brilliant politics, genuine discontent and intense emotional appeals, the Tea Party has helped pull national Republican leaders such as John McCain to the right, and has defeated those -- such as Lisa Murkowski in Alaska and Bob Bennett in Utah -- who didn't move quickly enough. Its impact on the local level has been similarly dramatic. In May the historically moderate Maine Republican Party adopted a platform that included such Tea Party planks as eliminating the Federal Reserve, sealing the borders, and prohibiting stimulus funding.

It may sound like a corporate dream come true -- as long as the corporation in question doesn't have international operations, rely on immigrant labor, see the value of national monetary policy, or find itself in need of a subsidy to boost exports or an emergency loan from the Fed to survive the worst recession in seven decades. Business leaders who favor education reform, immigration reform, or investment in infrastructure can likely say goodbye to those ideas for the short term as well; they won't be possible in the willfully gridlocked world of the coming 112th Congress.

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