Does the federal government need to protect Mike Freeman from .... this? (Photo by Michael Freeman).

A couple of nights ago, I feel pretty confident that I witnessed something quite politically significant: the death of the Tea Party movement.
It struck me as being the equivalent of the air being let out of a balloon – just this rapid shrinkage and then that big round balloon is nothing but a tiny flexible bag. Now, I could make some comparisons about the balloons inflating and growing in size because they’re filled with hot air and gas, but my point isn’t to disparage the Tea Party movement or suggest the people who got involved in it – in protest of this nation’s soaring budget deficits – had the wrong motives, aims or goals.
Instead, I no longer believe the movement has a future, and I suspect it’s going to fade away. The reason: a report on ABC News about Robocalls.
The report that aired this past Wednesday on “ABC News With Diane Sawyer” wasn’t particularly dramatic or Earth-shaking. It was about efforts by the Federal Communications Commission to crack down on Robocalls – those unsolicited phone calls with a recorded message that try to convince you to push a button for more information. The FCC wants to require businesses that use Robocalls – obviously with the intent of getting you to buy this, that and the other thing – to get your expressed, written consent before they can robocall or text you again.
The report practically gushed at the FCC’s – or, actually, the federal government’s – move to protect consumers from Robocalls as the greatest thing since sliced bread. The most often cited reason this is badly needed: these calls often come during dinner time, when families want to eat together and discuss the day, and don’t want to be interrupted by those pesky calls.
Curiously, the report didn’t cite a single person opposed to the FCC’s move, although I’m sure there are industries that rely heavily on robocalls that don’t want to have to go through these additional layers of government bureaucracy just to reach customers.
And that’s when I knew the whole concept of a genuine conservative movement in this country was dead. Bye bye.
As I sat there watching Diane Sawyer swoon over this move, I felt a curious sense of irritation. Yes, I get annoyed by robocalls, but like most people, I employ more old fashioned options, including hanging up on them, adding my name to the National Do Not Call Registry, and even ignoring my phone altogether around dinner time, and going online later to check and see who called.
What I don’t feel like I need is the government protecting me from these calls. But then again, that’s the nature of our government today: it’s always Christmas time and the government needs to prove to you that it’s doing something productive by giving you presents every so often.
And what nicer present than a robocall-free dinner time.
Boy have we fallen hopelessly in love with the government as our great protector. Even something as simple as a grating phone call is something we need to be guarded  from.
Watching the report, I wondered about the folks from the Tea Party movement. Where are all the pro-business conservatives ready to argue that in a free market system like ours, companies have a right to make these telemarketing calls, while consumers have a right to say no and hang up?
Where are the Libertarian Tea Party activists who hate the notion of yet another layer of government being mandated to protect us from things that don’t pose any kind of a genuine threat?
No, there were no voices in opposition. The Republicans who once claimed big government was the enemy were either silent or praising this assault on robocalls as a belated Christmas present for the American people.
And after all, isn’t that how we get elected in this country, by giving rather than taking away?
It’s hilarious, too, to think of the FCC and the government “protecting” us from robocalls because they might call during the dinner hour. It appears the staff at the FCC still have a 1950s and 1960s image of the nuclear family seated at the dinner table: mom and dad talking about work, the kids discussing school. Chances are that today, all four family members are too busy to even eat dinner together, but if they can find the time, what do you want to bet both parents and kids spend half the dinner time texting and checking emails on their cell phones or IPads?
Chances are they’d ignore those robocalls anyway, just because it interferes with their next text message.
I wish the government didn’t spend so much time looking for ways to “protect” me, and I wish there was a vocal champion out there who didn’t think new government regulations were the solution to everything that annoys us.
Once upon a time, I thought those champions were the Tea Party movement.
But they’re not. Obviously, if a robocall interrupts a Tea Party members’ dinner time, maybe that big federal government they railed against isn’t so bad after all.

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