Apr 062011

In the fall of 2010 the Tea Party was swept into power on a wave of voter discontent promising to turn the country around by reigning in out of control government spending.  They were riding high on populist anger pushing a hard ideological line as the solution to our nation’s problems.  Five months later the Tea Party’s approval ratings have plummeted, Republican governors riding the wave have seen their support evaporate, and the oncoming government shutdown has put the ascendant Republicans in a serious bind.  Regardless of the cause of the Tea Party and GOP’s woes can be summed up in one word.


No one can deny the Tea Party-fueled gains of the Congressional Republicans in the 2010 elections.  They trumpeted their victory as a mandate by the voters to pursue a ultraconservative antigovernment agenda.  Yet for all the claims of strong support what the mandate they received was less clear.  A large part of their victory in 2010 was thanks to highly depressed voter turnout especially among groups that Obama depended on for his 2008 victory.  With only 41% of voters bothering to come to the polls as opposed to the low 70s that we saw in 2008 probably the clearest thing the voters did say was they had enough with government as usual.  With the certainty of victory the hard-right Tea Party candidates in Congress and state government moved forward to make the perceived mandate a reality.  Ironically enough it was putting their agenda into action that has led to a serious case of buyer’s remorse across the board.

In Congress the Tea Party, ignoring polls showing Americans’ first priority was job creation as opposed to cutting the deficit, went all ahead full with their agenda starting with the infamous forcible rape bill.  They followed up with attacks on NPR and Planned Parenthood threatening to cut off the flow of government assistance for both.  While the Culture Warriors fought personal battles at the expense of the American public the House leadership continued to thunder on high of the dangers of the growing deficit.  They demanded immediate cuts across the board regardless of their economic impact.  When questioned on the economic impact of mass federal layoffs Speaker John Boehner responded to these concerns with a blunt “So be it”.  When the Democratic-held Senate refused to play ball and roll over to the House Boehner and the House GOP doubled down on their stance of cuts, cuts, and more cuts leading to a string of stopgap continuing resolutions to keep the lights on.  In spite of following their agenda to the letter the Tea Party, far from seeing their political stock rise, has recently taken hard blows to their support.  From previous highs of 50% support the Tea Party has fallen to a new low of 32% and Americans now seeing the Tea Party as being as much a part of the problem as the Democrats and Republicans.  The hard-line calls by the Tea Party for government shutdown, a course Boehner himself fears will benefit the Democrats, coupled with the refusal by ultraconservative Republicans to compromise with the Senate have largely run afoul of American popular opinion.  With strong majorities holding out for a compromise and tiny slivers supporting the white-knuckle showdown that now seems all but inevitable the Tea Party has charted a truly dangerous course for the GOP.

The recent disasters for the Tea Party are hardly confined to the Beltway.  A recent string of anti-union measures and rhetoric pushed in MichiganOhioWisconsin, and Maine have far from rallying public opinion have sparked ferocious backlash.  In Florida Governor Rick Scott’s unilateral actions and disregard for the state legislature have turned his own party against him.  In Wisconsin where the labor fight has most strongly come to a head the expected easy re-election of incumbent Republican David Prosser to the state Supreme Court has come down to a narrow margin with the challenger, virtual unknown Democrat JoAnne Kloppenburg, just barely ahead flipping 19 counties that went for Scott Walker in 2010.  With a storm of recalls gathering the troubles for the Wisconsin GOP, riding high on the Tea Party’s wave, have only just begun with labor increasingly agitated and energized into action across the Rust Belt.
Each of these skirmishes have helped build up what will be a game-changing showdown in Washington.  Both sides in Washington are spoiling for a political fight with each citing dearly-held principles.  Yet in spite diffuse opinion forming on impending shutdown the Tea Party is taking very serious risks.  In every one of their previous attempts to advance their cause they have been met with popular backlash and buyer’s remorse.  Their insistence during the 2010 campaign that government shutdown should not only be an option but actively sought by lawmakers has left the recentprotests to the contrary hollow and has enraged Tea Party activists calling for a firm stand in a fight where the stakes couldn’t be higher.  Far from being an effective cure for our woes some economists fear a prolonged shutdown spiraling back into a deep recession.  Beyond the economic impact is the direct effects of shutting down our federal government.  In the event of a shutdown over 800,000 federal workers would be furlough and stop receiving a paycheck, 30% of all tax refunds will remain unsent, states would face serious cuts in funding for programs like unemployment pay, and soldiers fighting overseas would continue their dangerous work without pay just to name a few.  If a last-minute budget deal cannot be reached then the Tea Party, thanks to their sound and fury, run the risk of being stuck with the blame.  They may soon discover that ideological purity doesn’t matter when the public doesn’t like what your ideology does to them.
Hopefully cooler heads will prevail.  The United States cannot afford courting economic disaster because the most radical faction of one political party cannot put aside ideology for the sake of the public good.

Also posted at Ryan’s Desk

  12 Responses to “Rocks and Shoals”

  1. Ironically, by your definition, there are no cooler heads. The Democrats, Republicans, Tea Party, everyone is too hard headed to work with each other. You can blame the Tea Party and the Republicans, but the Democrats are as much to blame as they are, for the Democrats created more of the deficit, entitlement programs, etc, and refuse to give any part of them up. Tea Party says “cut everything or we’ll drown in debt,” and the Democrats respond with “hell no you heartless bastard, we’re not giving up one red cent, we can just keep printing and borrowing forever!”

    Maybe the answer lies somewhere in the middle, but no one in any of the parties is going to even think about stepping up there, and if they do, they’ll never get the support for it. And it doesn’t matter if the Public doesn’t like their “Pure Ideologies” because the Tea Party was an attempt to break the former two “Pure Ideologies” and it failed, partially because instead of letting the Tea Party be something that ran across the board from Rep and Demos, the Demos shut it out completely and let it get co-opted by the Reps. Our two parties are so entrenched, we couldn’t get a new ideology if we wanted to. Or we might, but considering the state of world affairs, it would likely be Islam, and I’m pretty sure that would be worse than the BS we’re currently dealing with, because then instead of two ideologies holding a stalemate where almost nothing happens, we’d have one that dictated everything and would insist all pagans be converted or wiped out. IT would be the glory of the Church in the middle ages.

    People complain that “oh no, the unions won’t have power for the workers” or “government workers might lose their jobs” but the simple fact is that the government workers and the union people haven’t lost much of anything, while everyone else is watching their worlds fall apart and circle the drain. Forgive me if I lack sympathy for the fact that someone is trying to do something, even if it’s the “wrong” thing. I think it was Teddy R who said “The best thing to do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing to do is nothing.” Busting Unions may be the wrong thing, but at least its something. We’ve already seen what the status quo is doing. I’ve seen black holes that sucked less.

    As for falling into a deep recession, we’re already in one. If you can find the actual figures for unemployment, rather than the slightly doctored numbers you see on tv, we’re closer to 16% when you count the people who have run out of benefits and can’t get anymore, and still don’t have a job. We’re already screwed so badly we don’t know what to do with it. Our national debt is on the order of 14 Trillion dollars. I don’t think anyone can even grasp that number. Even if we discovered the art of turning things into Gold or created a one of a kind thing that everyone had to have and only we could make it, it would take us longer than the US as been a nation to pay off that amount of money, and yet it doesn’t stop growing. And every single member of the Government is responsible, regardless of Party. You say the Tea Party over reached, but in this situation, I think it isn’t that they over reached, its that the edge is so far gone, there’s nothing to even grasp.

    Maybe the people busting unions and taking hard lines are going about this wrong. Maybe they and those that refuse to work with them will crash the system. But at this point, it might be better to crash the system and start over, rather than continue on or try to alter a system that has deviated so far from what it originally was intended to be and has become so broken, that there is no “fixing it” there is only going back to the “Source Code” of what our heavily Pagan influence founding fathers wanted and starting over again with the Pagan ideals they founded this nation on before the Christians and other Monotheists ruined everything!

    • The funny thing is the entire budget problem could be solved with much less pain than Washington claims is necessary. In 1999 we had a budget surplus that, if it was left alone, would have given us the breathing room to pay off the national debt with ease. What changed since then was the Bush tax cuts which added a trillion dollars over the last decade to the national debt plus two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If American forces were pulled out of both countries, we rescinded the Bush tax cuts, and redirected oil and sugar subsidies to renewable energy then we would be back on our way to paying off the national debt and investing in the economy of tomorrow. That’s not even going into the savings we would gain if there was a real, honest review of how the DoD spends their money followed by taking a meat ax to the corruption and waste in military spending.

      Of course given the way Washington is now that would be politically impossible. The Republican Party threw a fit over the possible end of the Bush tax cuts threatening to kill unemployment extensions, there are too many hawks in both parties who for whatever reason want us to stay overseas in Iraqistan, and the oil and sugar industries would blanket DC in lobbyists at the first whisper of such a plan.

      There’s a lot more going on in DC than just the two parties. While they definitely share the blame a lot of very rich and powerful people are currently making lots of money under the status quo. Those people will fight tooth and nail to protect their very lucrative sources of income before they see them go out the window.

      • I would still argue the Bush tax cuts were/are a good thing. The last thing the government needs is to have control/access to even more money. And at least one of those two wars we had were/are necessary. While you’re complaining about them, you might wanna complain about the Third that Obama is getting us involved in, or the 10 trillion something he added onto that debt.

        Like i said, everyone wants what they want, and none of them are going to compromise. Blaming some and not others isn’t going to change that.

        • There is not a single credible study that shows the Bush tax cuts had any positive economic impact. Believe all you want to but the empirical data shows quite to the contrary that unemployment benefits produce more jobs than the Bush tax cuts did.

          Quite frankly I have no problem blaming one side more than the other when one side is much more at fault. It was the GOP that got us two wars in Asia and the Bush tax cuts which obliterated our fiscal soundness. That the Tea Party was so willing to double-down on a government shutdown with Planned Parenthood funding being the sticking point only reinforces that genuine fiscal soundness is not in their agenda.

  2. No, we can’t afford to court economic diaster and I don’t want to see a government shut down, but I think, we as a nation have to wake up and smell the “tea” in that we cannot afford to spend money on government programs that don’t work, and yes, I believe defense spending should be on the table as well. There have been all these studies about how government workers are on par with the private sector, well I don’t think that is entirely fair when you consider they have almost garanteed job security and benefits that far outweigh any possible pay desparities that may exist. I do not have sympathy for workers that consider anything over nothing that they may have to contribute to their own health care and retirement benefits, while those in the private sector have to be self sustaining.

    This is a model that can no longer be funded without raising taxes dramatically on everyone…It is government in general that has been on overreach for a long time, and now we are paying the price. I agree with those that say we need a sober assessment and maturity when looking at what has to be done, but unfortuately that does not go well with politics and political aspiration and having to raise a billion dollars to run a reelection campaign.

    • Actually there is a plan I’ve seen circulated by one member of the House that would, by the numbers, pay off the entire national debt in ten years while having minimal impact on the average American. His proposal would put a 1% tax on all financial transactions (talking just Wall Street, hedge funds, etc) valued at least $100k. With over $400 trillion dollars moving around every year (yes I said trillion) on Wall Street if you nabbed one cent on every dollar of that in said tax we would have the entire debt wiped out in a decade without breaking a sweat.

      Such a plan would, not surprisingly, lead to massive hue and cry from the same executives we bailed out in 2008. I think they should pay back to the people who saved their bacon in the first place.

      • I think that is a splendid idea.

        Another idea I’ve been pondering is reworking limited liability corporate law – pierce the corporate veil and make individuals financially responsible for their actions. If a hedge fund manager plays some risky business with a toxic mortgage, if it fails, let it be on him and the company, not the company solely.

        • I like that idea. Corporate liability protections originally started as a shield for investors, it shouldn’t be used to protect the people in decision making positions from the consequences of their actions.

          • I just noticed something though – at a lower limit of $100k, you will be adding to any real estate transactions (I mean, Hel, my house was $100k, and it is dinky). If you bump that to $1 million (or even half a million), I’m totally on board with it.

            The thing that brought about that idea actually was something that happened to another surveyor here in Maine – he made a poor decision that cost his clients several hundred thousand dollars (they built their house on part of Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, by relying on his survey, which was incorrect). The courts found him both personally and professionally liable for his actions, as well as his company – and it got me thinking, why wasn’t that same logic used on the idiots on Wall Street who got the whole country into this mess?

  3. What stands out most for me is that the Tea Party was elected to be fiscal conservatives, on the back of a Republican wave that was standard punishing the incumbents for the economy. None of their policy riders are part of their mandate. I imagine the electoral consequences will be interesting in 2012, on the back of the Tea Party being now among the incumbents.

    • If you think the sparks from this fight were bad just wait until they confront raising the debt ceiling next month. Tea Partiers are already growling about refusing to raise it without serious concessions nevermind that if the US fails to raise the debt ceiling and defaults on our debt the global economy will promptly fall off a cliff.

  4. working for a company without having union backing is asking for a heap of trouble, been there and done that and NEVER again!