Belmont Club

The Eve of Destruction

The National People’s Action disrupted debate on the debt-limit proposal by chanting “Boehner, Boehner get a clue; it’s about revenue”. Felicia Somnez at the Washington Post writes, “the protesters, who were sitting in one of the visitors’ galleries overlooking the Republican side of the chamber, unfurled a large black banner and began chanting against the debt-limit compromise.”

It appeared that after one officer tried to yank the banner from the group, a protester either took a tumble or dove over the row of seats in front.“We have an injury!” someone said.

But it was the Tea Party which took the most rhetorical flak. The Guardian notes that Vice President Joe Biden characterized its opposition to additional hikes as the action of “terrorists”

Obama sent vice-president Joe Biden to Congress to try to sway disgruntled Democrats. In a closed meeting, Biden heard concern from his party colleagues that too much ground had been conceded to the Republicans in order to prevent the default.

In a sign of the polarisation of politics in Washington, Biden agreed with a Democratic colleague who objected to what he felt were extortion tactics by Tea Party Republicans. Biden, in words that will enrage many in the Tea Party, described hardline conservatives as having “acted like terrorists”.

In comments typical of the Democratic mood, Congressman Eliot Engel told the Politico website: “If you had told me that this was the package a month ago, I would’ve asked you what you had been smoking.”

Actually Biden was merely agreeing with an observation by a Democratic Congressman, Rep Mike Doyle (D-PA) who said:

“We have negotiated with terrorists,” an angry Doyle said, according to sources in the room. “This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend any money.”

Biden, driven by his Democratic allies’ misgivings about the debt-limit deal, responded: “They have acted like terrorists.”

The resentment at prevented from spending money was echoed by other members of the caucus who had no shortage of infernal comparisons to use on this occasion. Some Democratic Congressmen argued that compromising with Boehner — distasteful as it was — was the only way to prevent the Tea Party from “blowing up the economy” with “weapons of mass destruction”.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) called it a “Satan sandwich,” and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) called seemed to enjoy the heat analogy, saying: “the Tea Partiers and the GOP have made their slash and burn lunacy clear, and while I do not love this compromise, my vote is a hose to stop the burning. The arsonists must be stopped….

Biden told Democratic lawmakers that the deal would take away the tea party’s “weapon of mass destruction” — the threat of a default on U.S. debt obligations.

“They have no compunction about blowing up the economy to get what they want,” Doyle told POLITICO after the meeting. …

Earlier in the day, Biden told Senate Democrats that Republican leaders have “guns to their heads” in trying to negotiate deals.

Paul O’Neill, who was Secretary of the Treasury under the first George Bush and later left it to be a critic. He likened the Tea Party to Al Qaeda. O’Neill had long been a proponent of tax increases as well as budget cuts:

while he was Treasury Secretary, suggested the United States faced future federal budget deficits of more than US$ 500 billion. The report also suggested that sharp tax increases, massive spending cuts, or both would be unavoidable if the United States were to meet benefit promises to its future generations. The study estimated that closing the budget gap would require the equivalent of an immediate and permanent 66 percent across-the-board income tax increase. The Bush administration left the findings out of the 2004 annual budget report published in February 2003 …

O’Neill’s private feuds with Bush’s tax cut policies and his push to further investigate alleged al-Qaeda funding from some American-allied countries, as well as his objection to the invasion of Iraq in the name of the war on terror — that he considered as nothing but a simple excuse for a war decided long before by neoconservative elements of the first Bush Administration — led to him being fired in 2002 and replaced with John W. Snow.

William Yeomans at Politico flat out accuses the Tea Party of terrorism. “They have joined the villains of American history who have been sufficiently craven to inflict massive harm on innocent victims to achieve their political goals.”

Terrorism is a tough term, but, unfortunately, it describes tea party tactics precisely. Their first step was to vow not to vote to raise the debt ceiling … families would watch their retirement and education savings and their dreams disappear.

Rather than reject the unthinkable, the tea party harnessed this potential harm as its weapon of mass destruction.

For pragmatists, it allowed a hostage-taking. The pragmatists threatened to defeat a raise in the debt ceiling unless Congress and President Barack Obama rejected taxes on the wealthy and accepted budget cuts that would move the country toward the tea party’s idealized vision of an America. Their dream is an alternate version of the United States — before the New Deal, the Great Society and civil rights laws alleviated massive inequality and injustice — and extended American opportunity.

The tea party faction could not achieve these goals through straight up democratic means because of their unpopularity. So it resorted to its threat of mass destruction. They were able to do so because they formed a disciplined bloc that gave them leverage over the House leadership and because of the threat that members who did not go along would face primary challenges from the right.

Hard-core tea party members were empowered by their oft-repeated disdain for reelection. They were liberated to pursue their radical course because they were freed from the traditional constraint on members of Congress, imposed by the need to face the voters.

It seems fair to observe that in some quarters, the show must go on. Whether it the “moderate” wing of the Republican Party or the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, the greatest harm possible is to stop the music. As Yeomans put it “a strong America has always stood firm in the face of terrorism. That tradition is in jeopardy, as Congress and President Barack careen toward an uncertain outcome in the tea party- manufactured debt crisis.”

And that terrorism has now adopted the guise of the innocent looking family down the street, who behind their white picket fences and seemingly mild-mannered exterior are secretly plotting to destroy truth, justice and the New Deal. And while one may or may not agree with the substance of those accusations, the vitriol is apparently real. The one thing worse than getting between the Nazgul and his prey is getting between a politician and public money.

Yep, when you get used to a way of life it’s hard to stop. Even those who didn’t have much going for them to start with wind up with even less. But even so, anything to get the next fix.

It's about revenue

a strong America has always stood firm

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