Tea Party Horror Show

What sort of person would deliberately ignore the obvious fundamental reality of any budget?

By Numerian

It’s hard to say if the Tea Party has an acknowledged leader, but someone who professes to be just that has chosen a very opportune moment to trash Speaker John Boehner’s attempts to craft legislation that would allow an increase in the debt ceiling. Judson Phillips, the CEO of Tea Party Nation, is the self-acknowledged head of the Tea Party, and in an editorial this morning in The Washington Post, he attacks Boehner’s legislation for providing “almost non-existent budget cuts.”

Phillips says:

As the founder of Tea Party Nation, I feel confident in saying that the Tea Party understands what so many in Washington seem to have forgotten: We do not have a debt crisis. We have a spending crisis. There is only one way you get to a debt crisis — you spend too much money. Washington Post, July 27

Here is what is fundamentally wrong and dangerous with the core assumption of the Tea Party: There are two ways to get to a debt crisis – you either spend too much money or you don’t take in enough revenue. Anyone who has done a family budget or a business budget understands there are two sides to every discussion of cash flow: cash flow in, and cash flow out. In government terms, this equates to taxes received and expenditures made.

By taking one half of this equation out of the discussion, the Tea Party is dragging the nation along on a fantasy ride in which only spending cuts are allowed as a solution to the government’s debt problem. The danger in an approach which demands enormous budget cuts – $4 trillion is the number mentioned by the Tea Party – is that you expose the economy to a depressionary shock, especially since the Tea Party wants the cuts immediately. Immediate cuts of that size would be the equivalent of removing 25% of all cash flow out of the economy, throwing tens of millions of middle class Americans into acute financial stress. For many poor people, it would be an existential crisis, in which starvation becomes a real prospect.

What sort of person would deliberately ignore the obvious fundamental reality of any budget? Tea Partiers have been called crazy, “nutters”, reckless, irresponsible, and just plain stupid. I suspect they have bought into a partisan set of talking points that have been dogma for many years in the Republican Party. First, all taxes are bad, because they steal money from hard-working people and deprive businesses of the means of creating jobs. Second, government spending is generally bad because it makes people indolent and dependent on hand-outs. Third, deficits are bad because they stifle economic growth.

Tea Partiers are obviously creatures of the Republican Party. Fifty of them sit on the Republican side of the aisle in the House of Representatives. They pride themselves on attracting someone like Sarah Palin as a keynote speaker at their conferences. They get funding from right-wing special interest groups. They are partisan in their approach to politics, excoriating liberals and Democrats, and eager to push the Republican Party into their imaginary world where all government deficit problems can be solved simply by cutting and capping expenditures. In his editorial, Judson Phillips ascribes all of the spending problems to the “Obama-Pelosi-Reid axis of fiscal evil.” What happened to George W. Bush and his $300 billion annual tax cut, his unfunded wars, his drug company give-away, and his bailout of the banking industry? You are no longer dealing in fantasy when you ignore the president and party who in 2000 inherited a budget surplus and converted it into a $1 trillion+ deficit.

Party hack though he is, Mr. Phillips makes some good points about waste and fraud in the federal budget. These points are lost, however, in his one-sided mind set: he takes only the Republican side in the politics of the deficit debate, and then he requires that we look only at the spending side in the budgetary calculus. We could say that his approach helps no one, but in point of fact there are some beneficiaries, namely all the people who have direct access and influence with Congress so that they can get their taxes cut at the exclusion of everybody else. That would be wealthy people, and large corporations.

As much as the Tea Party likes to fancy itself as independent, it has become the radical wing of the Republican Party. It would be bad enough if the only thing the Tea Party might accomplish would be pulling the Republican Party to the fringe of radical conservatism, but it is doing more than that. It is holding the Republican Party hostage to its immensely dangerous concept that the only solution available to the federal deficit is to cut spending. The Republican Party in turn is holding the country hostage over the same profoundly simple error – that taxes cannot be raised as a matter of principle. When one party in a two-party system perpetuates and insists on such an appalling error, the people who are going to get hurt are the 99% of the population who no longer are represented in the Congress.

Originally published in The Agonist

4 responses to “Tea Party Horror Show

  1. This beats most sci-fi and fantasy movies I’ve ever seen, and I am OLD.

  2. I should think it works the other way also. The nation has bought into the delusion that it can have military spending and not pay for it today and also have cake too and bail out the banks also and give billions to governments overseas in aid–all witout paying for it except by going deeper into debt. The Tea Party is rectionary, but the other side of the coin is that partisanship of both parties is reactionary also. No one in DC is serious about restraining big government growth, dealing with the real issues of funding, or actually intelligently reconsidering Federal spending priorites. This crisis may have been a small fire that far right Republican interests threw petrol on, but that little fire has been smoudlering for years waiting for the fuel. Mr. Obama was elected to deal with Washington and instead he simply perpetuates the great game. The Tea Party forces the issue and that is the only good thing they have done.

  3. I find this description of the Tea Party rather droll, partisan in its own right, simple, misguided, off-base and haplessly opinionated.

    The early Tea Party gatherings that I went to had a diverse group of disenfranchised, disillusioned, and pissed-off people from both ends of the political spectrum. And regardless of how it’s been usurped by the Republican Party, mainly in the perceptions given to us by the corrupt corporate media, and hacks such as the person that wrote this pathetic assumption piece, someone that I doubt has ever attended a Tea Party meeting, and therefore can only be speaking from ignorance, there are still a large group within the Tea Party that do not support the usurpers that say they speak for them.

    Just what is the writer trying to say? That raising the debt ceiling is okay? He comes off as someone that says understands monetary policy, yet misses entirely the concept of spending beyond your means, and what it means to waste money, or that simply printing more phony money isn’t going to do anything but make the inevitable worse.

    And the falling back on the blame-game by mentioning Bush, least he be reminded the Obama is carrying on all the same misguided polices, on steroids.

    To suggest we do more of the same, when more of the same is what got us into this mess to begin with, is not a winning policy. Raising the debt-limit, only pushes off the inevitable, and makes what’s coming worse than it already is. But being that there are cowards in both parties, I can only predict more of the same.

    And if anything the Tea Party can do anything to derail the seemingly inevitable, has to be good, regardless of the scare-talk of what would befall us should we not dig our hole a lot deeper.

    Yeah, sure, for a very short period of time the illusion that we have fixed the immediate problem will seem to have worked, until the next time the fiddler wants to be paid.

    Nothing in either party, outside of Ron Paul, at least the ones projected by the media, addresses the real core issues, which is the fiat money system, the corrupt banks, and the war-machine. And it is still those things the original Tea Party that I meet are mad about. Palin or no Palin, Phillips, or no Phillips.

  4. it seems the writer’s point is that taxes should be increased — to generate more revenue. I’d agree if that were applied to those corporations who pay next to nothing in taxes.

    but I have to side with publius. the easiest and most moral way to fix the budget is to cut military spending

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