If the Tea party won, America lost

Tea Party GatheringGlenn Greenwald participated in a New York Times debate with eight other people on the question of did the Tea Party win in the debt ceiling war.

His contribution is well worth reading in full, as usual, because of his insightful views of who owns and controls the federal government, and the differences between what various political factions stand for, and what they actually do. While Greewald praises the Tea Party for standing firm behind its convictions – something that establishment Democrats generally and House progressives in particular don’t seem capable of doing – he also notes that many of their policies are destructive and the opposite of what Americans want, like an increase in taxes to deal with the deficit and debt.

But I’d like to pull out a couple of things to disagree with:

Those [Tea Party] candidates emphatically vowed to block spending and tax increases…

Those candidates and that extreme ideology also vowed to never allow the debt ceiling to be raised again. But the Tea Party caucus in the House – by my rough count – voted for the debt ceiling deal 31-29. Had the debt deal included new revenue, and by the vote totals in the House (261-161) and Senate (74-26) it’s clear there was plenty of room for this deal to become more liberal and in line with public polling, it’s quite possible that a significant number of Tea Party Republicans would have still voted for the deal.

While I think the Tea Party folks can hold their breath longer than anyone else, they still need to breath just like the rest of us.

And this:

..avoid business-as-usual compromises..

I’d like to know what the debt deal was, the one that a majority of Tea Party House Republicans voted for, if it wasn’t business-as-usual compromise. Republicans demanded the farm, held their breath until more responsible people gave in, and then Republicans got 98% of what they wanted and Democrats got nothing.

That is business-as-usual compromise in Congress. Republicans get everything they want, and Democrats get nothing.

It is precisely the kind of business-as-usual compromise that I agree needs to stop. Only the Tea Party enabled it here, and the GOP is a big reason why it exists in the first place. All of that said, the rest of Glenn’s contribution to the debate is spot on. From pointing out that the neo-conservative establishment is becoming increasingly annoyed at the progressive/Tea Party alliance against unlimited wars in the Middle East, to this from Big Business, the establishment GOP’s biggest constituent:

“Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue ominously said of the freshman resistance, ‘We’ve got a lot of new people pounding their chest.’ And, he added, ‘We’ll get rid of you.'”

They can and they will. When that unlimited corporate cash starts coming after the Tea Party, it’s going to steamroll them just like it steamrolled Democrats in 2010.

Believe it.

* * *

Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the infamous Tea Party Patriots faction, said this in her contribution to the debate:

The main differences were: Democrats wanted to raise the debt ceiling while raising taxes, and the Republicans wanted to raise the debt ceiling while not raising taxes. The Republicans paid lip service to “cuts,” but those are phantom cuts. […]

On the other side of this debate were the Tea Party Patriots who want the government to behave as responsibly as citizens must each day. When we run out of money, we stop overspending.

The majority of the American people are on the side of the Tea Party Patriots when we say to our government: “stop overspending.”

Public polling has shown concern over the debt and deficit, but there are three points to consider. First, no poll has shown that despite the concern over growing debt, that a majority of Americans want the government to stop spending. Going from concern over debt to opposition to spending is a leap and an assumption, it is not proven.

Second, changes in public perception of the debt and deficit debate has largely followed the narrative written by the media. There was no great concern over the debit and deficit until the GOP started throwing temper tantrums over them, and the media dutifully covered those hissy fits all hours of the day for weeks on end.

Third, public polling has shown consistently, regardless of the media, that a majority of Americans want tax increases mixed with spending cuts to address the debt and deficit and for Medicare and Social Security to be left alone. More detailed polling has even shown support for tax increases across the board, not just for the rich, if that’s what it takes.

Martin’s highly political framing that Republicans wanted to raise the ceiling and cut spending, while Democrats wanted to raise the ceiling and raise taxes, ignores the fact that the American people agree with Democrats. Their real position, that is. Cut spending, raise taxes, and raise the ceiling.

Therefore the idea that a majority of Americans are “on the side of the TPP” is flat wrong. To the contrary, the TPP’s steadfast opposition to raising taxes places them definitively outside the mainstream along with the Republican party as a whole.

Paul Tenny

Paul Tenny

I'm not a journalist but I do it anyway. I cover elections and have interviewed television writers and producers.
Paul Tenny

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