The explanation for this inconsistency is that most Tea Party members are AARP-eligible. Surveys have shown 70 to 75 percent of Tea Party supporters to be 45 or older (compared to about half the overall population). Tea Partiers aren’t against government benefits. They’re against government benefits for other people. They just dress it up in antigovernment rhetoric and convince themselves that Medicare and Social Security benefits are different because they’ve already paid for them through payroll taxes (when in fact beneficiaries take out far more than they put in; that’s why both programs need periodic adjustments). Hence the nonsensical slogan, “Keep government out of Medicare.” The fact that Medicare and Social Security account for most of the welfare-state spending that Tea Partiers profess to despise (and about one-third of all federal spending) is something that Tea Partiers either don’t grasp or choose to ignore.
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