Liberals now blame the Tea Party for America’s AAA credit downgrade. This is possibly the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. It’s like blaming the 9/11 Commission Report on 9/11. It’s like blaming my bad 6th grade report card on report cards. It’s like blaming ladies for Lady Gaga. Simply because the debt problem continues to be the subject of debate does not make the debate itself the problem.
This remains true even when those responsible for the downgrade note the debate. Here’s the passage from the Standard & Poor’s report that Democrats have been using to blame conservative Republicans for the recent credit reduction: “The political brinkmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed.”
In their hurry to blame the Right, many on the Left continue to focus on the word “brinkmanship,” but what they forget about is the brink. America is being pushed to the brink of what? The brink of debate? S&P spokesman David Beers explained in April: “So why the negative outlook on the U.S. government’s rating? In summary, it’s because when you look at the underlying fiscal challenges the U.S. government is grappling with, as well as the rising U.S. government debt burden, we think—absent a material fiscal consolidation program embraced by policymakers—that increasingly the U.S. government’s fiscal position will diverge from that of its key ‘AAA’ peers.”
The “material fiscal consolidation program” to address the “rising U.S. government debt burden” was the Cut, Cap and Balance plan passed by the Republican-controlled House and tabled by the Democratically-controlled Senate. This plan would have substantively cut spending, capped it for the time being, and would have begun the process of ratifying a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. The Democrats called this plan too “extreme.” President Obama said “we don’t need a constitutional amendment to do our jobs.”
Sorry, but yes you do, Mr. President. In fact, most of history tells us we should have doubts as to whether Washington leaders would do their jobs even with such a constitutional provision. Recent history tells us that the Democrats have absolutely zero plans to “do their job” of spending taxpayer dollars wisely. If the GOP offered Cut, Cap and Balance, what substantive solution did the Democrats offer? None—other than the usual mantra of raising taxes on “the rich” and increasing spending. “The rich” are defined as anyone making above $250,000 a year—which includes most of the small businesses needed for any potential economic recovery. Some have estimated that even if we taxed “the rich” at 100% it wouldn’t keep the federal government operating for more than a few days. The very notion of raising revenues this way is not only absurd, but it would stunt any new potential economic growth. And no matter how you cut it, opposition to tax hikes does not represent red state unreasonableness—but liberals’ eternal red herring.
Spending cuts are an absolute necessity. Explained S&P in April: “While we’re mindful that the President and Congress are beginning to focus on some type of agreement and may possibly even have a broad understanding about the scale of a fiscal adjustment—roughly $4 trillion… We think—given the division of opinion between Democrats and Republicans—that will be very difficult to achieve over the next two years.”
The “division of opinion” between the same, old big government Democrats and the new crop of Tea Party Republicans will indeed be “difficult to achieve” precisely because only the GOP is thinking in terms of anything close to a “$4 trillion” cut or “fiscal adjustment.” The Obama-John Boehner agreement offers no actual cuts—only decreases in the amounts of proposed spending. Only in Washington, DC can increased spending be defined as a “cut.”
The real, seemingly permanent divide is not between Republicans and Democrats per se, but between the liberals who dominate both parties and the small group of conservatives currently residing in the GOP. For example, there were many conventional Republicans who opposed the Obama-Boehner deal because they said it “cut” defense spending. This is false. There aren’t any actual cuts in Pentagon spending any more than there are actual cuts to Democrats’ beloved domestic programs.
But there should be. Conservatism, in a word, is about limits. Liberalism has always relied on limitless government. Frustrated liberals who complain the Tea Party is oblivious to facts and history are right to be frustrated—as their post-New Deal, post-Great Society America now clashes with the new reality of economic unsustainability. The Tea Party doesn’t reject facts or history—hard financial facts now reject the history of much of American liberalism. The Left simply cannot imagine a less powerful federal government. This is also true of Republicans who can’t imagine a United States that isn’t the policeman of the world, another utopian project more Americans are agreeing must come to an end.
Nobody wants to hear that the big government party is over. It’s over. The current debate is now between the realists who accept it and the idealists who reject it—and to say the debate is the problem is to say there should be no debate.