Can the Tea Partiers’ beliefs be falsified? I don’t think they can be. I mean, is there any evidence that could convince them that the fault here lies with themselves, in the way they conceive politics, and in the way they behaved? It sure doesn’t look like it. In that sense, they think of politics as a kind of religion. It’s not for nothing that the hardcore House members stood together and sang “Amazing Grace” as the impossibility of their position became ever clearer. They really do bring a religious zealotry to politics.
Let me hasten to say that I’m not endorsing the “Christianist” meme, which I find far too reductive, among other things. Besides, many of the Tea Partiers and fellow travelers are not motivated by religious faith, but by a religious-like zeal for their political ideology. It was like this on the Right before the advent of the Tea Party. There has long been a sense on the Right that the movement must be vigilant against the backsliders and compromisers, who will Betray True Conservatism if you give them the chance. Again, the religious mindset: politics as a purity test. In this worldview, a politician who compromises sells out the True Faith — and faith, by definition, does not depend on empirical observation to justify itself.
Millman points out that treating politics as religion makes getting a majority near impossible:
Tomasky is highly skeptical that new negotations over the budget can result in any different outcome next time:
The position of the chaos caucus is going to be: Okay Obama, you give us entitlement cuts, and we’ll give you…uh, what? No revenues. They’re inflexible on that point. No programs (outside maybe of defense, and even that’s a maybe) funded at levels above sequestration. So actually, they’ll give nothing.
[T]here’s a high likelihood that these negotiations will end the same way as all the others that preceded them did: no agreement. An agreement is only compatible with the GOP’s anti-tax absolutism if Democrats drop their demand for tax parity and agree to pay down sequestration with other spending cuts. Possible, but unlikely.
One way out of this would be for Obama to go big, to propose in these new talks a Bowles-Simpson-style deal in which major tax reform and entitlement cuts are exchanged for much higher revenues. If the GOP were a genuinely conservative party, actually interested in long-term government solvency and reform within our current system of government, they would jump at this. They could claim to have reduced tax rates, even if the net result were higher taxes. And the brutal fact is that, given simply our demographics, higher taxes are going to be necessary if we are to avoid gutting our commitments to the seniors of tomorrow. They could concede that and climb down from this impossibly long limb they have constructed for themselves.
I’ve long favored a Grand Bargain, but recognize its huge political liabilities without the leadership of both parties genuinely wanting to get there. But for Obama, it seems to me, re-stating such a possibility and embracing it more than he has ever done, is a win-win.
He may alienate Democrats – but after his cold-steel resistance to Tea Party blackmail, he has surely won some chips to his left. With independents and moderate Republicans, now reeling from the last month’s brinksmanship, it would signal centrist leadership that could bolster his political standing, even if the GOP turns him down. If his political standing improves, then the chances for a Democratic wave in 2014 increase.
But it means taking a real risk now. And this president has shown in his second term a much greater propensity to risk than in his first.
“New Mainstream: Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Salsa”
March 11, 1992
KETCHUP, long the king of American condiments, has been dethroned. Last year, salsa — a retailing category that includes picante, enchilada, taco and similar chili-based sauces — took the condiment crown, outselling ketchup by $40 million in retail stores.”
He is a line cook at the American Indian Smithsonian Museum on the National Mall. Anderson is not a government employee. He’s a contract worker – the government hires his company to make the food for visitors to the museum. When the shutdown closed the museum, Anderson lost his job. He’ll now presumably be able to go back to work, but unlike federal workers, he won’t get back pay. And he could use that back pay: Anderson is a divorced father of two who usually brings home about $350 a week after taxes and child support. His 16-year-old son lives with him in Washington but commutes by bus and train to high school in Maryland every day.
Anderson has no savings – his wages don’t leave much cushion for savings – and struggled through the shutdown to pay his rent, put food on the table and pay for his son to travel back and forth to school.
When you think of the actual Americans that the Tea Party is playing with, like so many pawns on a chessboard, the repulsiveness of the ego of Ted Cruz and the fanaticism of Erick Erickson becomes even clearer. For them, for all their protestations to the contrary, this was a game. And nameless, struggling Americans were the losers.
The fact is, John Boehner has made a deliberate choice all along in his speakership. You can moan all day about leadership and and herding cats, etc. But he has made the choice that his slavish devotion to the Hastert Rule is more important than anything else … more important than the financial health of the country, even the globe.
His choice of requiring a majority of the majority on every single vote continues to give unprecedented power to a relatively small minority in his party. He’s made a choice letting roughly 12% of the House drive the entire government. That’s all it is – a choice. There’s no law, rule or even recognized precedent for that. He’s taken the (occasional) practice of one of his predecessors and turned it into something more important than the law of the land. All he needs to do is stop, and everything immediately goes back to normal but for the screaming.
Another is far too generous to the Speaker:
I’ve never to be politically sophisticated but I did have a manipulative mother whose upbringing required me to develop survival skills in interpreting the underlying motivations of others.
Counter-factual accounting is guess-work by definition, but a few research firms have tried to attach a number to the shutdown. Macroeconomic Advisers put the figure at $12 billion. S&P estimate the cost was twice as high, at $24 billion. Split the difference, and you’re talking about $18 billion in lost work.
What’s a good way to think about that kind of money—a sliver of the entire $15 trillion U.S. economy, but still, you know, $18 billion? In July this year, NASA funding was approved at around $17 billion for the fiscal year. So, there: The shutdown took a NASA-sized bite out of the U.S. economy.
But that’s just a nibble compared to the total cost of the budget showdowns stretching back to 2010. According to Macroeconomic Advisers, the total cost of Congress’s assault on the economy going back to 2010—including the budget cuts, including sequestration, and fights around the budget cuts—was about 3 percent of our entire economy. That’s $700 billion. That’s not just NASA. It’s one year’s entire defense budget.
Krugman thinks the number-crunchers at Macroeconomic Advisors are underestimating the fiscal drag:
The combination of the payroll [tax] hike and the [unemployment] benefit cuts amounts to about $200 billion of fiscal contraction at an annual rate, or 1.25 percent of GDP, probably with a significant multiplier effect. Add this to the effects of sharp cuts in discretionary spending and the effects of economic uncertainty, however measured, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that extortion tactics may have shaved as much as 4 percent off GDP and added 2 points to the unemployment rate.
In other words, we’d be looking at a vastly healthier economy if it weren’t for the GOP takeover of the House in 2010.
There’s nothing about the income verification measures that passed Wednesday night that will change Obamacare, aside from a few staff members at Health and Human Services devoting some hours to gathering the data and writing up these reports. And that probably explains why Democrats were okay with passing this language in the first place.
Republican Congressman Charles Boustany worried recently that actions by House Republicans “could trigger a wave of discontent that could wash out our Republican majority in the House if we’re not careful.” Nate Cohn continues to insist that the Republican majority is safe:
[E]ven if public outrage with the GOP persists at today’s levels, there good reasons to question whether the wave will endure through November 2014. Unlike real waves, electoral waves shrink as they approach the shore. Political scientists have found that the generic ballot overestimates the president’s party this far from an election. That’s part of why Alan Abramowitz estimates that Democrats need a 13 point Democratic edge on September 1 to win the 17 seats necessary to retake the chamber in November.
Enten disagrees and argues that “Abramowitz’s forecast is a good starting-point for understanding how uphill is the Democrats’ task in taking back the House, but it is far from perfect.” Furthermore:
The thing is that expert ratings (like most polling) are not all that predictive a year out from an election. At this point in the 2006 cycle, there were 17 Republican seats in the lean or tossup categories (pdf). That’s well short of the 30 seats that Democrats would ultimately take from Republicans. At this point in the 2010 cycle, there were 28 Democratic seats in the lean or tossup category. Republicans, of course, went onto gain 63 seats in 2010.
It’s not until later in the cycle when individual seat rankings become quite useful. That’s when potential challengers and incumbents read the national environment and decide to run or not. Chances are that if the 4-5pt Democratic lead holds, the individual seat rankings will reflect that edge. For now, individual seat ratings probably aren’t all that helpful to understanding which way and how hard the wind is blowing.
My view, for what it’s worth, is that this event has the potential to deeply shape public attitudes about the GOP’s fitness for public office and change the shape of the next Congress decisively. I mean, here’s Ross today:
“Even at the bitter end, on the last possible day to defuse the crisis before the debt ceiling was breached, over 60% of House Republicans voted to push the US government into default, with incalculable but almost certainly catastrophic consequences. This is a very important point, with very ominous implications, that shouldn’t be forgotten or obscured.
Is it unfair, one-sided, or exaggerated to suggest that the national Republican Party has become a dangerous menace to the republic, with no clearly visible redeeming features? I don’t think so,” – Jeff Weintraub. Me neither.
I suppose I shouldn’t in any way be shocked by the extraordinarily vehement attitude of Tea Party Republicans after they nearly destroyed the US and global economy. And yet I am somewhat grateful I can still be shocked by a column on Fox News’ website. Here’s how it starts:
American taxpayers have once again been trampled by establishment Republicans – a thundering herd of chicken-hearted Republicans in Name Only (RINOs) galloping to the Left. The debt ceiling deal struck between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is a victory for President Obama and Democrats. ObamaCare is still the law of the land. The government is still spending money it does not have. And thousands of government workers just got a two-week vacation courtesy of the taxpayers.
Let’s take the last three disappointments/wishes from the non-chicken-hearted.
“ObamaCare is still the law of the land.”
Yes, it is. But that’s because the president who proposed it and the Senate that voted for it were re-elected in 2012. That’s how our system works. Is it possible Todd Starnes doesn’t know this? No, it isn’t. So it is fair, I think, to infer that he believes that because his party regards this centrist, private-sector-dependent reform as an “abomination”, the federal government should be shut down permanently and the country’s credit destroyed, prompting a global depression. And that’s why this episode has been so disturbing. It is not that the GOP doesn’t have a perfect right to vote against Obamacare a zillion times; it’s that they responded to their electoral loss in 2012 by threatening to destroy the entire polity and economy. That is not a tactic or a strategy; it’s a declaration of war against the system of American government.
“The government is still spending money it does not have.”
Yes, it is. But almost all the current debt is a function of massive tax cuts in 2001 that were never paid for (by the GOP), two bank-breaking wars that were never paid for (by the GOP), a big new entitlement for seniors, Medicare D, that was never paid for (by the GOP), and the revenue sinkhole provided by the worst recession since the 1930s (begun before Obama took office.). The scale of the debt thus acquired is vast. I think Starnes is absolutely right to make its reduction a priority. The question is a pragmatic one – how do we cut entitlement and defense spending along with raising revenues to get there?
One side is prepared to consider cuts in entitlement programs it cherishes; the other side is resolutely opposed to any net revenue increases at all. One side could begin to negotiate a debt deal that was 2-1 spending cuts to tax hikes; the other side refuses to negotiate even a 10-1 deal. What, for example, does the GOP offer the Democrats on fiscal matters right now? I see nothing. If one side is prepared to give nothing, no deal can be done. And if the Tea Party is right about the urgency of cutting the debt, no deal is very bad fiscal news.
And part of the pragmatic solution is recognizing that immediately ending the government’s current deficit by spending cuts alone would so vitiate economic growth that it would be counter-productive. Starnes is therefore not actually serious about the debt, and neither is the Tea Party.
“[The Obamacare defunders] hurt the conservative movement, they hurt people’s health care, they hurt the country’s economic situation and they hurt the Republican party … These are the people who said, ‘Plan: Step One, Invade Iraq. Step Two, It turns into Kansas,’ Could I ask if there’s anything in between Step One and Step Two? ‘Oh ye of little faith,’” – Grover Norquist.
Update from a reader:
Just wanted to point out that Norquist didn’t have much criticism for the Republicans during the shutdown. Here are some of his tweets:
[R]ed state and Southern representatives voted overwhelmingly against the Senate compromise: 27-91 in the redstates, 25-88 among Southern representatives. Republicans from the Northeast and Pacific voted “yes” by 30-16 margin; the blue states voted “yes,” 32-17. But compared to the fiscal cliff vote, the GOP might be even more cleanly divided along lines of vulnerability and ideology. Republicans from more competitive districts, with a Cook PVI of R+2 or more Democratic, voted almost unanimously for the Senate compromise.
[M]arkets have wised up to Congress’s brinkmanship habits. Anticipating that Congress would inevitably raise the debt ceiling, markets showed only a tepid reaction this week to the threat of default. To be sure, we saw nervousness in bond markets as the Treasury came close to hitting its borrowing ceiling. Still, we are a long way from TARP I: The defeat of the first TARP bill in September 2008 precipitated a market free-fall that forced the parties to the table. With markets a bit more attuned to how polarized parties legislate, we can no longer count on adverse market reactions to discipline recalcitrant leaders into coming to the table. This may prove a worrisome development in future episodes of brinkmanship when the blame game delivers a less decisive blow to one party or the other.