The Silver Lining in the Tea Party Debt Commission*
by Gary Therkildsen*, 6/30/2011
FreedomWorks – the Koch-addicted, Tea Party-associated bastard progeny of conservative wingnut and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey – is cobbling together a budget panel similar to last year's presidential debt commission. Ingeniously, the group has set such ridiculously stringent goals that the policies required to carry them out would have a devastating effect on the economy – wherein lies the comforting prospect of the effort.
According to the New York Times, FreedomWorks activists and staff met over the weekend to hash out the parameters of their future deficit-reduction proposal. Not only will the plan slash government spending by $300 billion in the first year and $9 trillion over the next 10 years, it will balance the federal budget within the decade by holding revenue down to 19 percent of gross domestic product [GDP] and limiting spending to no more than 18 percent of GDP.
I suppose we're lucky they didn't throw in a requirement for a two-thirds congressional majority for any tax increases – a provision of the Republican's "especially dimwitted" Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA), which the Tea Party debt panel seems to be taking a number of cues from.
Leaving aside the fact that achievement of these benchmarks would be counterproductive toward righting our nation's fiscal ship – revealing the effort to be little more than an ideologically driven attack on government – the plan is literally unworkable. Per Ezra Klein:
The baby boomers are retiring and health costs are rising. Unless you have a way to stop one or the other from happening – and no one does – spending as a percentage of GDP is going to have to rise. This proposal doesn’t interrupt those trends. It simply refuses to acknowledge them – or, to be more generous, it rules them unconstitutional.
And even if the Tea Party panel avoids going down the BBA's legal road, because the group, as the Times piece notes, is "unlikely" to "allow anything that looks like a tax increase," the magnitude of the cuts that will be required to make up for the lack of revenue raisers will eviscerate popular programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Because if the recent pushback on Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) budget is any indication, the American people are fed up with conservative efforts to tear down the social safety net in the name of fiscal responsibility while leaving big business and the wealthy completely out of the equation.
A grab bag of libertarian fantasy and radical supply-side economics dressed up as a Tea Party budget plan will with any luck only inflame the public further. Indeed, the traveling circus that will be the FreedomWorks effort to “educate” the masses on the "tough choices" needing to be made should do more for souring the country on this nonsense than the progressive community could ever hope to achieve on its own.
I’m just holding out hope that through use of a "strong crowd-sourcing component" we'll get to see economic justifications for reinstating "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," erecting a moated wall on the Mexican border, and preventing the elimination of incandescent light bulbs.
*This post has been edited for clarity.
Image by Flickr user davitydave used under a Creative Commons license.