How to Enjoy the Debt Ceiling Fight

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I am enjoying the fight in Washington, D.C., over the debt ceiling — from afar.

If you want the inside dope on what’s happening right now, I don’t have it. I am 3,000 miles away from it, and I have work to do. To me the fight in Washington has mainly been background noise.

In the cocoon of left-liberalism in which I live, the echo is that the “right-wing fanatics in Congress” have gone berserk. That’s what Paul Krugman said in the New York Times, and he is such a smart man. And here is E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, July 21:

“The tea party lives in an intellectual bubble where the answers to every problem lie in books by F.A. Hayek, Glenn Beck or Ayn Rand. Rand's anti-government writings, regarded by her followers as modern-day scripture — Rand, an atheist, would have bridled at that comparison — are particularly instructive.

“When the hero of Rand's breakthrough novel ‘The Fountainhead’ doesn’t get what he wants, he blows up a building. Rand’s followers see that as gallant. So perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that blowing up our government doesn’t seem to be a big deal to some of the new radical individualists in our House of Representatives.”

I turn to the No. 1 radical-individualist web page, and see a denunciation of the Tea Party from another place. Here is Brian Wilson on LewRockwell.com, July 23, claming that the Republicans are really progressives:

“When you assume the Republicans are shills for progressivism, the actions make sense and are easily predictable. If the Republicans won the Debt Debate, government spending would really be cut. Which of course, they don’t want. So they had to throw the fight. Unfortunately, like TV wrestling, it becomes more and more obvious the game is rigged. It's as if the rulers in Washington don't even care if we believe their staged fight. It's just a kabuki ritual they have to perform before stealing more of our Freedom.”

Some folks are never satisfied. Being unsatisfied is part of who they are. Not I; some things I find very satisfying. I tend to agree with George Will, who said on July 22 that the Tea Party is “the most welcome political development since the Goldwater insurgency in 1964.”

These are our people. They are for smaller government. They are against the spending and debt. They are for the constitution. I should be on their side because they are on my side.

It pains some libertarians to identify with the Tea Party. Libertarians see themselves as intellectuals, and as political movements go, the Tea Party is middlebrow tending toward lowbrow. Its people listen to Sarah Palin, B.A., Communications, University of Idaho, and Glenn Beck, whose most advanced degree is from Sehome High School, Bellingham, Wash. These Tea Party people know nothing of Lysander Spooner, the Austrian theory of the trade cycle, or the legal doctrine of substantive due process. I recall the comment by Jeffrey Friedman, Ph.D., Yale, and the editor of Critical Review (a publication I can follow only about a quarter of the time) that the Tea Party had trashed the image of libertarianism on university campuses.

Probably so. Still, the Tea Party kicks butt. In 2010, it got a cadre of rabble-rousers elected to Congress. In this debt-ceiling fight, the new Republicans provoke the furious denunciations of the Krugmans, Dionnes, and other stalwarts of the welfare state. You wouldn’t be seeing these fulminations, including Dionne’s furious blast at a novel published nine years before he was born, if the Tea Party weren’t threatening the left-liberal project.

I love it.

How it’s going to work out, I don’t know. I doubt the Left’s hysteria about a worldwide economic crisis that will flush Americans’ 401(l) money down the drain — if this were so, I think, the stock market would have fallen 20% by now — but I don’t know. The market is not all-knowing, and sometimes it comes down with a thump. I wonder whether the promises offered by President Obama and the Senate Democrats to cut two or three trillions in spending are any good. I don’t know that, either, but even if they break their promises, it seems far better to extract those promises now and pin them to their shirts.

Get while the getting’s good, my daddy used to say.

Will the people turn against the Republicans as they did in 1995? Maybe. Or will a large, vague, unenforceable deal work to Obama’s advantage, allowing him to run as a moderate, beat the Republican nominee in 2012, and save the welfare state? That’s the thesis of George Will, who urges the Republicans not to fall for it. I don’t know how they should play their cards, and unlike Will, I am not going to instruct them. I assume they know what they’re doing, and if they don’t, there is nothing I can do about it.

I hear a muted noise from 3,000 miles away, and note that the fight is still on.

I cheer my side.




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Comments

cid

This so called great tea party has fail to pass anything, they couldn't even pass the light blub bill. They could have passed spending cuts bill but they didn't. They could have cut foreign aid in half but didn't.List goes on and on they're a joke!

Luke

The Tea Party is not for less spending. Ron Paul is but Ron Paul has been largely marginalized.

If the Tea Party were for less spending we'd see REAL dramatic plans, like ending these trillion dollar wars and occupations.

Many, if not most the Tea Partiers recently voted for the latest half a trillion dollar "defense" spending bill. All of this is borrowed money. Now, they are playing political games.

My belief is that they are suffering from Obama Derangement Syndrome and unwilling to significantly reduce government at all.

GeorgeF

No they are not.

The majority of them voted to extended the Patriot Act.

Shame on them.

Visitor

Sorry, I don't buy the cheerleading part. Yeah, it is good that many ordinary folks outside government are now questioning everything, but the people they elected to Congress? Still politicians. Still liars and thieves. Still warmongers and police state advocates. As Mencken put it, "People do not expect to find chastity in a whorehouse. Why, then, do they expect to find honesty and humanity in government, a congeries of institutions whose modus operandi consists of lying, cheating, stealing, and if need be, murdering those who resist?"

Rob McMillin

These are our people. They are for smaller government. They are against the spending and debt. They are for the constitution. I should be on their side because they are on my side.

Really?

An April, 2010 New York Times poll of self-described Tea Party members showed them overwhelmingly in favor of Medicare and Social Security, answering this question

"Overall, do you think the benefits from government programs such as Social Security and Medicare are worth the costs of those programs for taxpayers, or are they not worth the costs?"

by margins of nearly 2-1 in favor (62% to 33% in favor vs. against, 6% "don't know").

If that's a vote for small government, well, they don't know the meaning of the word.

Fred Mora

You have to admit: Sometimes, the Washington debate looks a bit rigged. The feeling starts with the vocabulary. Politicians talk about yearly budget (e.g., "the 2011 budget forecasts a 1.6 trillion deficit") but they switch to a grandiose decade scale when they talk about reducing the spending ("we'll save three trillion over ten years!"). And it's been going on for years.

Democrats never objected when Republicans used this ploy under Bush. They now use the same apple-to-oranges comparison, with the Republicans' tacit approval. A honest argument would start by putting spending and saving on the same scale. But it would show how ridiculously small the "savings" are: "We'll save 300 billions next year. After a increasing our spending by 950 billions since 2008. Reelect us." (Source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2012/assets/hist01z1.xls)

That would be honesty. Of course, this will never happen.

Rodney C.

Good points made by all.

Thanks

J Eyon

>>Tea Party is middlebrow tending toward lowbrow. Its people listen to Sarah Palin, B.A., Communications, University of Idaho, and Glenn Beck, whose most advanced degree is from Sehome High School, Bellingham, Wash. <<

a silly generalization - but let's go with it - i would rather vote for people with good instincts than bad advanced educations

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