Cooling the hot tea of the House

John Boehner
Presumptive Speaker of the House Boehner

George Washington is said to have told Thomas Jefferson that the framers created the Senate to be the saucer designed to cool the hot tea of the House.  The midterm elections have created a situation in Congress that will test this plan almost literally given the Tea Party has now fueled the Republican takeover of the House.

As John Boehner becomes the presumptive Speaker of the House, he finds himself in an enviable position to carry out Mitch McConnell’s priority of spending the next two years assuring Obama is a one term President.  While the GOP failed to retake the Senate, this may turn out to play to the strength of the “Party of No.”

Boehner and other Republican leaders made no bones pre-election that should they win there will be no compromising with them.  Assuming they hold true to this, the country can expect the House to be a fitful producer of subpoenas and extreme legislation designed to appease the Tea Party faithful.  This also means that things that need to get done, like funding and budgeting, probably won’t.  The House, which is constitutionally required to start all budget bills, may withhold providing funding for all manner of programs in an attempt to starve the government into submission.

The beauty being that the House’s proactive agenda will never pass the Senate who, with just a slight Democratic majority, will be hard-pressed to agree on much.  While the House may be hotter than ever, the Senate will be an equally large heat-sink.  The Senate and Obama will be the scapegoats for why the GOP will fail to deliver on their promises of things they were going to do, while enabling them to more effectively say no to the things they said they would stop.  The economy will not improve much in this environment, leaving the Republicans able to continue to play the victims, and voters able to continue to blame the Democrats in 2012.

There is always the chance the Republicans will instead opt to work with the Democratic Senate and the President to cooperatively govern in the best interest of all of us, but the only reason to believe that, is the historical tendency of politicians to abandon their campaign rhetoric after the election.   Ironically, citizens now find themselves in a position where they are best off only if the people they elected turn out to have been full of hot air during the campaign.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the next couple of years play out.

Tea Party may get what they want, but not what they need

TeaCup (by Wathriotu on Wikimedia)
Is this your cup of tea? (Photo by Wathriotu on Wikimedia)

The thing that frightens moderates the most about the Tea Party is not that they will achieve their goal of creating an efficient, low cost, streamlined government.  Nor is it that they will usher in a wave of economic prosperity where people are free to raise their families and pursue the American dream.  Rather… it’s that the Tea Party will get what they are voting for instead.

The Tea Party leaders emphasize that first and foremost, the Tea Party is a movement motivated by, and dedicated to, the flailing U.S. economy.  And the ideological economic goals of the Tea Party are not wrong.  Yet there is a misguided assumption that anyone who stands against the policies advocated by the Tea Party is inherently opposed to those ideologies.    The truth is that by and large the disagreement is over whether the Tea Party’s policy agenda will achieve those economic goals.  What many moderates see, and the Tea Party remains blind to, is that their justifiable anger and frustration has been co-opted to back policies that largely benefit corporations and the richest Americans, while worsening the plight of the grassroots working class people who are fighting to enable them.

Consider the major cost cutbacks proposed by Tea Party candidates.  These include reducing or eliminating Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, the Departments of Education and Energy, the EPA, and the Veterans Administration.  There are no proposed alternatives to these services, just the cost savings by eliminating them.

The Tea Party is also interested in protecting corporations by limiting their liabilities for environmental disasters, removing the minimum wage, eliminating unemployment insurance, limiting financial regulatory reform, opposing carbon regulation, opposing mine safety regulations, lowering corporate tax rates, eliminating requirements to provide workers health insurance, maintaining financial incentives to move jobs overseas, and making it more difficult for workers to form unions.

For the richest Americans, the Tea Party wants to eliminate the estate tax and preserve the Bush tax cuts for the top 2% of tax payers.

The combined result of these proposed policies is a world where the burden of financing the military and what remains of the government falls predominantly to the working class.  A working class who will also be individually responsible for covering their own health care as well as providing their own retirement incomes and rainy day nest eggs to tide them over between jobs.  A working class whose children will not be guaranteed a standard of education, and who will grow-up in an increasingly polluted landscape.  A working class whose paychecks will dwindle as they are forced to compete with third world labor pools.

The Tea Party economic policies are based on a premise that what’s good for corporate profits and executive bonuses will ultimately be good for the working class as well.  Yet history repeatedly shows this to be untrue.  Whether we look at the rise of the robber barons of the early 20th century or at the income growth disparity of the last two decades, it’s clear that when the rich get richer, it doesn’t trickle down.  The only way the working class succeeds is if the rich and their corporations decide to share their prosperity for the betterment of the country as a whole.  In other words, we have to count on them acting outside their economic self-interest.  Talk about the audacity of hope!

The role of government is as a balance against unbridled capitalism—not that it has been playing that role well in the last 20 years.  It is supposed to be the collective will of the people.  An organization dedicated to raising the county’s tide to float all our boats, including the yachts.  But most of our current problems are a failure of government to do its job, not of government doing its job too aggressively.  The Democrats are not white knights here.  They bear significant responsibility for the corporitization of government as well.  But at least they are not running on a promise to make the situation worse.

The one upside of the Tea Party’s economic plans is that they will likely solve the illegal immigration problem.  This will no longer be a country anyone has a lot of desire to get into.