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December 27, 2012 3:12 PM What the Tea Folk Want In the Fiscal Talks

By Ed Kilgore

To properly assess the lay of the land for the continuing fiscal negotiations in Washington, it’s kind of important to understand what those conservative Tea types fighting John Boehner actually want. You get the general impression they just want less compromise than Boehner. But the reality is quite different. Here’s an appropriate reminder from Breitbart’s Joel Pollak:

The present Tea Party dilemma did not begin in November 2012 but in January 2011, when the new Republican leadership in the House of Representatives excluded Tea Party members from the highest leadership positions. The Tea Party, used to opposing but not to governing, acquiesced in a faulty arrangement that allowed the Republican establishment to lead the legislative agenda, and to blame the Tea Party when it failed.
That is exactly what happened in the summer of 2011, when Speaker of the House John Boehner quashed efforts by Rep. Jim Jordan to rally support around the Tea Party’s preferred “Cut, Cap and Balance” proposal in the debt ceiling debate. Boehner then signed onto an ill-fated deal that led to the present “fiscal cliff” impasse—while the Tea Party, slandered by the mainstream media as “terrorists,” bore the burden of blame.

Sounds semi-reasonable until you focus on what the “Cut, Cap and Balance” proposal involves. Here’s a description from June of 2011:

1. Cut - We must make discretionary and mandatory spending reductions that would cut the deficit in half next year.
2. Cap - We need statutory, enforceable caps to align federal spending with average revenues at 18% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with automatic spending reductions if the caps are breached.
3. Balance - We must send to the states a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) with strong protections against federal tax increases and a Spending Limitation Amendment (SLA) that aligns spending with average revenues as described above.

The “Cut, Cap and Balance” Pledge that was signed by 12 senators and endorsed by every one of the viable GOP presidential candidates (including Mitt Romney) made all three elements a condition precedent to support for any debt limit increase.

Since constitutional amendments require passage in both Houses of Congress by a two-thirds vote, and the version being promoted by conservatives involves a radical and permanent reduction in federal spending, it ain’t happening unless and until vast changes in the composition of Congress occur—maybe on the order of four or five straight 2010-style GOP landslides. So we’re not talking about some temporary “hostage-taking” involving the debt limit, but the kind where the hostage is resettled in another country under armed guard for years.

It is rather important that the media and Democrats understand where the Tea Folk are coming from. They aren’t just trying to push the country towards their policy priorities. The whole idea, and the rationale for all the revolutionary trappings, rhetoric and other folderol, is permanent repeal of much of the domestic policy legacy of the twentieth century—back towards what they imagine the Founders (and for many of them, Almighty God) intended. For the most part, they have little to fear from voters back home. There is no price to be paid for craziness and intransigence, though in most cases there is decidedly a big risk in exhibiting reasonableness.

So that’s who we are dealing with, and best we can tell, there are enough of them in the House to keep Boehner from showing much reasonableness as well.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • Josef K on December 27, 2012 3:22 PM:

    So thatís who we are dealing with, and best we can tell, there are enough of them in the House to keep Boehner from showing much reasonableness as well.

    Thats not the worst part. The absolute worst aspect to this situation is that the Tea Party won't make the connection between fewer cops on the street, more collapsed bridges, longer lines in the ER, and more poisons in their drinking water to their own policies. They'll blame god, the government, the immigrants, and who-knows-what-else for their collective misfortunes.

    Someone please explain to me how we got saddled with these idiots again?

  • boatboy_srq on December 27, 2012 3:42 PM:

    @Josef K: Three words: Isabella of Castile. They started heading to the New World thanks to her. After that, just pick a boat - though Mayflower certainly had more than her fair share.

    It'll be very interesting to see what happens when they figure out they couldn't buy new SSBNs, CVNs, or air superiority fighters under those restrictions. Then again, the GWoT didn't make it into "the budget" (it was an "emergency expenditure" for all the Shrub years), so it's possible all their little wingnut dreams can be funded in a similar off-the-books way. Weren't these the same ones that talked about "responsibility"?

  • Anonymous on December 27, 2012 3:49 PM:

    @Josef K - "Someone please explain to me how we got saddled with these idiots again?"
    I think the question I have is: where were these "idiots" during the eight W. Bush years when money was flying out of the country to places like Iraq in billions still unaccounted for, when the deficit skyrocketed and the vice president told us it didn't matter? When our constitutional rights to privacy were violated over and over. Where were they then?
    Why did they wait until a black guy became president to go crazy?

    And, I continue to be STUNNED at the mainstream Media's decision to actually discuss Wayne LaPierre's crazy idea about putting a gunman in every school....just amazing that this crackpot's screed is being taken seriously. amazing.

  • schtick on December 27, 2012 4:10 PM:

    That this crap is being bought by a good chunk of America and all the lies that go with it is what scares me to death. That and the fact that the repub party no longer exists because they are scared to death of the teabaggers so they are all now teapubs.

  • bluewave on December 27, 2012 4:13 PM:

    Welllll...actually, they have nothing to fear from those red state voters back home so long as they don't get their way. It's actually a very slick dynamic they have going for them. But there will be hell to pay if those debtor red states ever lose those sweet, sweet federal tax dollars.

  • c u n d gulag on December 27, 2012 4:23 PM:

    This is the result of the marriage of the Manichean Dominionist Evangelical Christians and the John Birch holdovers, and recent converts.

    There was enough war, and an Evangelical President, W, for 8 years, so that both groups were happy.

    Now that a black guy, not only got elected, but reelected, these "patriots" see their mission as, either the wholesale destruction of the government, back to some form of Articles of the Confederacy, or to secede from the union.

    So, here we are.
    One house of out bicameral legislative branch, thinks it's part of a parliamentary system. Unfortunately, with one house of Congress controlled by religious freaks, and fear-filled loons, we are not looking at a very bright future.
    Not until we can pry these idiots and clowns out of Congress, and into a mental hospital, where they belong. And, that may take a while.

    Or, we can start taking a serious look at dividing this country into two parts.

    A house divided against itself, one-half sane, the other clinically insane, and in the control of booger-and-paste-eating Jesus-freaks, and utter morons (but I repeat myself), cannot stand.

  • Tom on December 27, 2012 4:36 PM:

    Eventually and inevitably, they will split the GOP. I suspect it may be sooner rather than later. In fact, it may come before the end of the year -- if the Senate amends the House bill and sends it back to the House, and Boehner allows it to come to the floor and it passes with most Democrats and enough Republicans. Or Pelosi pries it out with the discharge petition. Boehner loses his speakership? Yes. But a governing majority of Democrats and some GOP reps has been established. Speaker Cantor or Speaker Ryan become even more irrelevant and obstructive. Many GOP centrists lose primaries to the Tea Partiers, but Dems pick up a lot of those seats in 2014. If the Dems are lucky, the GOP will stay self-destructive for another couple of election cycles.

  • wihntr on December 27, 2012 4:50 PM:

    What scares me the most is that the so-called Tea Party, while it may have started as a genuine grass-roots movement (admittedly heavily motivated by the election of a dark-skinned man as POTUS and his subsequent efforts at passing the ACA and stimulus packages) very quickly became a vehicle directed by a few very wealthy people. Those people are pretty damned smart and are using the Tea Baggers to get some very conservative Republicans elected at the state level, where the damage they can do is less visible to the rest of the country and much harder to fight. See Wisconsin, 2011.
    Even if the Fiscal Cliff/Curb/Curve/Whatever mess can be dealt with in the next couple months, what the Koch-directed Tea Folk are doing at the state level is going to be much more problemmatic.

  • boatboy_srq on December 27, 2012 5:08 PM:

    @CUND:

    Now that a black guy, not only got elected, but reelected, these "patriots" see their mission as, either the wholesale destruction of the government, back to some form of Articles of the Confederacy, or to secede from the union.

    Have you read those Articles of Confederation? The Teahad would hate them: they're still stronger and more centralizing than Teahadist Orthodoxy can stomach. And it's about time the Teahad understands that the AoC lasted just long enough for those venerated Founding Fathers - and is it just me, or does the Teahad treat the FFs biographies as some New(er) Testament? - to realize that they weren't enough, and that a stronger, even more centralized government was necessary. The Teahad doesn't seem to want a return to the AoC as much as they want the US to become fifty separate nations held together with some New World equivalent of the Common Market.

    But you're quite right about the timing. This one of those days when I fall back on the idea that the only all-encompassing way to understand the Teahad is as the political expression of TABMITWH.

    ---------------------------------------------------------

    @Anonymous:

    Besides explaining the Teahad in terms of TABMITWH (see above), I too would like to know where all this "fiscal responsibility" comes from. Except, of course, looking at Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, and any other state where the Teahad sprouted from its bitter, resentful, entitled seed, you can see there's plenty of public $ to go around - so long as you're a friend/blackmailer of some important Teahadist, or so long as there's some un(der)represented citizenry you can scr#w in the name of Fiscal Responsibility and/or Jeebus. One look at the privatization of the correction systems, or the school voucher push, and you'll see exactly how that works. I personally would like to see every Congresscritter (past or present) who voted "yes" on the GWoT, on OI[L]F, or any of the other spendthrift-happy schemes of Shrubbery get personally assessed for an equal share of the costs of such. We'd see how "fiscally responsible" they are then.

  • jakdedert on December 27, 2012 6:23 PM:

    Absolutely agree that the real battle today is in the various state houses. We lost the one in the fed HoR back in 2010, due to lack of interest. The various gerrymandered House districts sealed that victory for a long, long time. Now that 17 states have GOP supermajorities in one or both state houses, things will be much stickier for a long time.

  • Doug on December 27, 2012 6:32 PM:

    "For the most part, they have little to fear from voters back home. There is no price to be paid for craziness and instransigence, though in most cases there is decidedly a big risk in exhibiting reasonablenes." Ed Kilgore

    Tell that to Akin and Mourdock.
    As the GOP moves ever further into insanity it will become harder and harder to NOT nominate more and more Akin/Mourdocks - at all levels. It took me an hour to vote las November, more than twice as long as in 2008, and due, I fully believe, to the splitting of tickets by Republican voters.
    I expect to have to spend a loooong time in line in 2014 and 2016...

  • Hue on December 28, 2012 12:28 AM:

    It would be absolutely refreshing karma for those tea partiers in Congress who find government dispicable, and who relentlessly malign "socialized medicine" to start practicing what they preach---- and say no thanks to their taxpayer-funded pensions, and never mind to their health care benefits. And all the other perks they get.
    We're watching you.
    Damn extremist hypocrites

  • joanneinDenver on December 28, 2012 9:29 AM:

    "jakdedert on December 27, 2012 6:23 PM:

    Absolutely agree that the real battle today is in the various state houses. We lost the one in the fed HoR back in 2010, due to lack of interest. The various gerrymandered House districts sealed that victory for a long, long time. Now that 17 states have GOP supermajorities in one or both state houses, things will be much stickier for a long time."

    I think the above is an excellent summary. I think that there was more to the 2010 Republican landslide that mere Democratic lack of interest. The Republicans had a strategy that included taking control of state houses for the purposes of being able to redistrict. Also from the day of Obama's inauguration, they began planning for his defeat. The political organization of the Republicans is state based. The political organization for the Democrats is nationally based, i.e., Obama for America. The Presidential election is the only national election we have and OFA proved to be a brilliant strategy.

    However, the question is: Can the Democrats compete on the local level? I don't know. I believe that the energy and funding that went into the national organizations drained the same from the local Democratic parties.

    The next question is: How can Obama govern with the obstructive
    legislative tactics in play?

  • winhtr on December 28, 2012 10:49 AM:

    Joanneindenver--

    I think that it is at the the state and even local level that the GOP's enormous money advantage really comes into play. Drop $2 mill on a presidential race and you will have the candidate's attention, but it won't necessarily be decisive (look at Adelson and Gongrich.)Drop that on a gubernatorial race and you own the governor. The Democrats simply can't compete with those "money bombs" in state and congressional races.