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Tilting at Windmills

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September 15, 2010

TEA PARTIERS CAN WIN A PRIMARY, BUT CAN THEY STAND ON PRINCIPLE?.... Congressional Republicans are currently working on a plan to permanently extend Bush-era tax rates, at a cost of $4 trillion over the next decade. How would the GOP pay for these cuts? It wouldn't -- every penny would just get thrown onto the national debt for future generations to worry about.

OK, so the Republican Party's talk about fiscal responsibility is obviously a transparent sham. But what about the Tea Partiers? Benjy Sarlin had this Daily Beast item yesterday. (via TS)

If the GOP retakes Congress and doesn't immediately take on the Tea Partiers' top issue, the national debt, they face a backlash that could cost them the support of the movement -- whose expectations are sky high.

Now, the point of the Sarlin piece was about whether Republican lawmakers would follow through on meeting right-wing activists' demands, but let's focus in on a slightly different point -- the notion that the national debt is the so-called movement's "top issue."

It's hard to say with any confidence -- different zealots get involved for different reasons -- but if that's true, the Republican tax plan offers Tea Partiers with a great opportunity.

Indeed, it's something of a challenge of their credibility and principles. When will we see a Tea Party organization, any Tea Party organization, publicly denounce the Republican tax plan as irresponsible and unaffordable? The GOP has no qualms about adding $4 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years. Surely the folks who consider the debt their "top issue" should have something to say about this, right?

Taking this one step further, the plain truth is that the entire Obama agenda -- every proposal that has passed or even been talked about -- costs far less than the Republican tax plan. And that's an agenda that forced these far-right activists into the streets to scream bloody murder.

So, what's it going to be, debt-obsessed Tea Partiers? Are you on board with a $4 trillion package that isn't paid for, or are you ready to "refudiate" it?

Steve Benen 1:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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Comments

I'm still waiting for the TPers to say something about the Bush deficits.

Posted by: KTinOhio on September 15, 2010 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

excellent point. When I hear even any tea party activist, elected republican, or republican official start talking about repealing Medicare part D, I might start to take them seriously. otherwise i will continue to see them as a bunch of angry citizens upset that a black man is President of the United States.

Posted by: pacato on September 15, 2010 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

They're just Republicans by a new name, so no, they can't stand on principles because they don't have any. It's nothing but a rebranding of the anti-democratic, hate filled Republican base, who really only care that the President happens to be a black guy, and simply mask that behind an ignorant concern for the deficit.

The Tea Baggers that get elected will simply be incorporated into the corporatist fold and the rank and file morons will keep getting strung along on their 'issues' just like the religious right has for decades.

They are fools, but not to worry, the Democrats will be the bigger fools by believing this is somehow a 'civil war' in the Republican party.

Posted by: doubtful on September 15, 2010 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

What pacato said. The Teatards don't give two shits about the "debt" or the Constitution, or anything else, really. They care that an uppity nigger is sitting in the White House.

Posted by: bikelib on September 15, 2010 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

the teabaggers "top issue" is now, always was, and always will be that the current president somehow doesn't look like all the other guys who came before him.
he's just kinda different... somehow.

Posted by: mellowjohn on September 15, 2010 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

No.

- this has been another edition of SATSQ.

Posted by: Trinity on September 15, 2010 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Now Steve, don't be asking them hard kwestions!!

You'll make their empty little haids hurt.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on September 15, 2010 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

You misunderestimate the power of teabag logic, Steve.

But if it merely reduces taxes, it is NOT spending money, and by definition that reduction is not "paid for" by borrowing or taxing or printing. A tax reduction MIGHT result in reduced revenue, which could result in more borrowing, but that borrowing is to fund SPENDING, not a tax reduction.

This is basic accounting, folks. It is a corruption of language that is designed to corrupt people's understanding to say that tax cuts must be "paid for" or "funded" with borrowing.
...
Posted by: quarterback1 | September 15, 2010 12:05 AM

See, they don't have to pay for tax cuts, because tax cuts are changes to income, and not expenses.

Ta dah!

From here:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/09/happy_hour_roundup_87.html
~

Posted by: ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© on September 15, 2010 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Yet many prominent national Democrats have agreed that deficits are the ultimate evil. When both major parties agree on something -- even when it's wrong -- it's not surprising that lots of people follow their lead.

Posted by: Tom Allen on September 15, 2010 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

I don't like to see the 'n*****' word used even in this context, but I don't disagree with the premise. The Tea Partiers are mindless robots whose positions change at the whims of their elitist masters, and who are too blind to even know it when it happens.

And while we're chatting, where are they getting their money from exactly? The official Republican organs are supporting them less and less, so who is keeping the money spigot open now?

Posted by: Curmudgeon on September 15, 2010 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

In my not-so fevered imagination,
the shadowy wealthy greed-heads that fund the Tea Parties are all FOR a huge national debt, provided they are not taxed to pay for it. That way they can invest in T-bills with the money they didn't contribute as taxes, and thus over the long haul they get PAID back with interest for "helping their country", by all the other tax brackets, rather than paying their fair share of our common interests. Neat, huh? Thus our society's funds flow up the social ladder, rather than down, which is the perspective of those at the top. Trouble is, enough upward flow and the entire economy breaks down for lack of purchasing power by the vast lower rungs.

Posted by: Keeping Track on September 15, 2010 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Conservatives don't want to cut the deficit, they want to cut services.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on September 15, 2010 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

No, they won't, because it's an article of faith to them that tax cuts never cause deficits, only spending can. They've had this drummed into them since the Reagan administration. So despite the fact that the current deficits are caused by irresponsible tax cuts, unfunded wars, a prescription drug program whose true cost was deliberately suppressed, and a disastrous economy caused by insane conservative economic policies, the deficit problem mysteriously requires that no money be spent on any Democratic initiative.

What a coincidence that these supposed "grassroots independents" support exactly the same "two Santas" plan that Republicans have been pursuing for years!

Posted by: Redshift on September 15, 2010 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Steve - the Tea Partiers are Republicans so this question answers itself. Continuously referring to them as "Tea Partiers" obscures a simple but important fact: they're Republicans.

Posted by: nepat on September 15, 2010 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Steve: Rather than speculate or ask rhetorical questions, why not find a tea-party spokesperson and ask?

Seriously, it's not like the MSM is going to. I know you're not actually a "reporter", but they aren't actually a party. And from everything I've seen, they love to talk. It could be enlightening and may even boost the ratings.

Posted by: martin on September 15, 2010 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, this post is so adorable. As if the tea partiers actually responded to elitist values like rationality and logic. Contradiction? They won't see no stinking contradiction. They want tax cuts and no debt, and before the consequences of their contradictory demands come to pass, they will be off chasing some other racist-tinged resentment. Ignorance and a willingness to blame someone else for all your own problems are, I believe, virtually impregnable defenses against understanding.

Posted by: Raenelle on September 15, 2010 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

I hear a primal scream, echoing across the land: "I don't know what I want, and I want it NOW!"

-and, martin has a good suggestion. Go find a few, -( not 'spokespersons')-, and open a dialog with them. Maybe even invite them to join us.

Posted by: DAY on September 15, 2010 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

So, what's it going to be, debt-obsessed Tea Partiers? Are you on board with a $4 trillion package that isn't paid for, or are you ready to "refudiate" it?

Doesn't matter.

After the midterm elections, the Tea Party will no longer have a public voice. I'm betting that the Tea Party movement will suddenly drop off of Fox News' radar, and suddenly the politicians who have been pandering to TPers just won't care anymore.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on September 15, 2010 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK
They're just Republicans by a new name, so no, they can't stand on principles because they don't have any.

Close, but not quite.

They're just Republicans who are too clinically f***ing stupid to employ the standard dog whistles used to dupe the willfully ignorant, and who care more about publicity than policy because ... well, polasee iz hardz, and being famous makes one rich.

Fixed for greatest accuracy!

Posted by: Mark D on September 15, 2010 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Some TP'ers still believe in the gospel according to Laffer. You see, if you reduce taxes on the rich, they will magically produce so much economic activity that the government somehow winds up with the same amount of money, or even more. This is because the John Galts will all get busy producing miraculous alloys and super-railroads, and the workers they hire will pay taxes. But if the super-rich have to pay 39% instead of 35%, they will petulantly decide to stop working, stop investing and deny us all the fruits of their brilliance.

Posted by: Joe Buck on September 15, 2010 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

The GOP is a big tent. It's true there will be divergent views. It's also true that these differences will be resolved in a spirit of reason and compromise.

Posted by: Al on September 15, 2010 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

My guess is that if you were to ask any tea bagger to explain the deficit they would stare at you blankly.

After the November elections when we actually see some of them in action as sitting Senators and congresspersons I have a feeling they won't be any different than what we see now. Expect alot of unseemly, hysterical, combative outbursts on the floor. Expect alot of ill-defined anger, shout downs and name calling. Don't expect any policy initiatives or coherent thought.

They'll vote lock-step with the other Epublicans, but their prime goal will be to have highly visible public tantrums.

Posted by: SaintZak on September 15, 2010 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Raenelle has it just right. Conservatives talk within their own bubble and the press does not demand consistency or coherency. Also Tea Partiers avoid the press. Don't hold your breath for debates with Democratic candidates.

Call it the greased pig strategy. It works beautifully as long as you don't have the power to actually make policy.

Posted by: jb on September 15, 2010 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

If the GOP tax cut proposal costs $4 trillion, I think that means that the Obama tax cut proposal costs $3 trillion.

Is that correct?

Did Steve B make a point of not mentioning that fact?

Posted by: catclub on September 15, 2010 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Benen is the master of the five-paragraph rhetorical question, but just in case there's any doubt about HOW this or any other failure of the Tea Party to achieve its goals or stay true to its 'principles' will be spun,

IT'S OBAMA'S FAULT
IT'S OBAMA'S FAULT
IT'S OBAMA'S FAULT
IT'S OBAMA'S FAULT
IT'S OBAMA'S FAULT

The moment he suggests so much as changing the font their legislation is printed in, they'll have all the pretext they need.

Posted by: Matt on September 15, 2010 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

The tea partiers are the hard core republicans looking to distance themselves from Bush, nothing more. This is the "born again" republican movement - same as the old but "washed clean" of whatever past failures of the policies they advocated - even as they are still advocating them.

Their positions are those of the republican party, regardless of what they are complaining about (here's a hint - they only complain about the government when it's a dem). We all know at least one, and they all openly cheered Bush every step of the way.

This is tribal for them - they've picked a side and openly taunted the other side. To admit any error on their part now is to destroy the view of their place in the world that they've made out of whole cloth.

So they will vote for the tax cuts, and be against the deficit. Because it pisses off the liberals. Because that's what republicans do these days. They need no other reason. They are always right, and everyone else is wrong.

Posted by: royalblue_tom on September 15, 2010 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Innumerancy is a terrible problem in our schools. It is also a useful political tactic.

Tea Partiers will simply avoid the actuarial details longer than inquiring reporters will ask the relevant questions.

Posted by: danimal on September 15, 2010 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Don't fool yourself that it's the uppity black dude that's driving them insane. It's the uppity DEMOCRAT that's driving them over the brink. No Democrat is rightly (no pun intended) allowed to be in any position of power. GOoPers are the only ones to inherit the earth.

Yes, it's worse with the dark skinned guy, but don't fool yourselves into thinking it would be that much different had Hillary won. It would have been the same except instead of non-stop racist rhetoric it would have been unrelenting sexist rhetoric.

Posted by: MsJoanne on September 15, 2010 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK
If the GOP tax cut proposal costs $4 trillion, I think that means that the Obama tax cut proposal costs $3 trillion.

You'd be a lot better off if you stopped trying to think, because you're doin' it wrong.

It's simple, really: If the Teatards gave two shits about either the deficit, or the middle class, they'd advocate restoring top marginal rates to where they were during the time they seem to love so much: the 1950s.

Amazingly, despite the fact Ayn Rand's drivel was still in print at that time, no one went Galt due to the top marginal rate being 91%. In fact, it was the biggest middle class boom the world had ever seen, and we even got paved roads and shiny new bridges and all sorts of nice things out of it.

And yet, all we here from these idiots is how a 3% increase on 2% of wage earners is just like what the Nazis did.

Ya know, there have been several economic disasters in U.S. history, and never before have millions of people come to the defense of those who caused the crash, nor have they decided to embrace the very policies that sowed the seeds of disaster.

Not sure if we should blame the media for their failures, or congratulate the GOP on the strength of their messaging machine. But it's a fucking shame, and leading us down the path of permanent economic collapse.

Posted by: Mark D on September 15, 2010 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Every time I've heard a statement of what the Tea Partiers stand for, it's been a different collection of issues. Last I heard their "top" issue was cutting taxes, you know, "taxed enough already"? The tax cuts they want would of course baloon the deficit, even if we cut out everything except the Defense Department. Oh, but now they want the deficit cut too? hmm. Math is hard, I guess.

Posted by: biggerbox on September 15, 2010 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

So, what's it going to be, debt-obsessed Tea Partiers? Are you on board with a $4 trillion package that isn't paid for, or are you ready to "refudiate" it?

Excellent post, Steve. I've been waiting for this point to come up. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Posted by: Marko on September 15, 2010 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

As biggerbox mentioned, the TEA Party name was originally supposed to be an acronym for Taxed Enough Already.

Their logic (if you can call it that) is that taxes are going up and so they need to march on Washington, disrupt town hall meeting and otherwise make it clear that they won't stand for Obama's 'socialist' agenda. Except of course, that taxes went down as a result of the stimulus bill and 2009 by most measures had the lowest overall rate of taxation in 70 or 80 years. Therefore (went the so-called logic) the real problem was that Obama's policies are exploding the deficit and that will inevitably require a tax increase later.

In short, their concerns about the deficit were never anything more than a substitute for their real agenda which is lower taxes always and forever.

Posted by: tanstaafl on September 15, 2010 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK
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