Will the Tea Party Derail Fiscal Reform?

As we head into the final phases of the debt ceiling debate, conservative columnist David Brooks raises an interesting and yet disturbing question. That question simply stated is: Has the Republican Party become so subsumed by the fanatics from within the Tea Party movement that America will miss out on a prime opportunity to put the country on sound fiscal footing and default on its debt to the longer term detriment of the nation.

Lets look inside Brooks’ analysis, what’s on offer:

1. “If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment. It is being offered the deal of the century: trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred billion dollars of revenue increases.”

2. “The party is not being asked to raise marginal tax rates in a way that might pervert incentives. On the contrary, Republicans are merely being asked to close loopholes and eliminate tax expenditures that are themselves distortionary.”

What are the obstacles:

1. “But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative. The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms.”

2. “The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it.”

3. ” The members of this movement have no sense of moral decency. A nation makes a sacred pledge to pay the money back when it borrows money. But the members of this movement talk blandly of default and are willing to stain their nation’s honor.”

4. “But to members of this movement, tax levels are everything. Members of this tendency have taken a small piece of economic policy and turned it into a sacred fixation. They are willing to cut education and research to preserve tax expenditures. Manufacturing employment is cratering even as output rises, but members of this movement somehow believe such problems can be addressed so long as they continue to worship their idol.”

In the final analysis David Brooks is simply articulating what most of the rest of us right thinking individuals have concluded long ago, and that is that if the leadership of the G.O.P. can’t impose some sort of order on the chaos within their own party, in an environment where the public wants compromise and the Democrats on Capitol Hill are willing to do just that, then the Republican Party will be seen as being not fit to govern. The concomitant fallout from that will be that we miss out on an opportunity of a lifetime to secure our financial future and the abandonment of the G.O.P. by the mass of independent voters, a prospect that will only handicap the party in future elections. The leadership of the Republican Party will have only themselves and the Tea Party to thank for that.


The Mother of All No-Brainers

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