The other day I wrote a post about the debt ceiling negotiations. Few people in the comments section agreed with my point of view. But I had expected that, and I expect it for this one, too, which is fine; I don’t need a bunch of yes-men (yes-persons?) on the blog.
So, here I go again. But first, a little overview.
I don’t think that people in the blogosphere are typical of the average American. I’m not talking about their political persuasions—liberal, conservative, or in-between. I’m talking about their intensity about politics, and their interest in it and patience for reading and thinking about it.
Residents of the blogosphere talk amongst themselves. A lot; in fact. And in that process they tend to fire each other up with ever-increasing fervor. And so people who are already fairly intense and even fanatical about their points of view often become even more so.
That’s what I perceive happening on the right side of the right side of the blogosphere now regarding the debt ceiling bill (let’s call that faction the Tea Party side for the sake of simplicity).
From its beginning, the Tea Party movement was painted by the MSM and the Democrats as a bunch of racists. That was a lie, although unfortunately a fairly successful one. What was even more successful was the MSM/Democrat effort to paint Tea Partiers as a bunch of wild-eyed crazy fanatics. But, for the most part, what the Tea Party actually consisted of (and what appealed to me about it) was a bunch of fiscal conservatives and even moderates who were angry at the escalating government spending of the last decade (and more) by both parties, and wanted it to be reined in by new leaders that the Tea Party would help promote.
That was the goal, and to a significant degree it was accomplished in the Congressional elections of 2010. But although the House was won, the Senate remains in Democrat hands, and of course the presidency as well.
That’s where we stand today. And that’s a huge part of what’s stalling the current negotiations over the debt ceiling bill. There is not only a rift between Republicans and Democrats, but between the two wings of the Republican Party.
Those of you who are with the Tea Partiers say fine, bring it on, this is what we sent them there for. Hang tough. Don’t cave like the Republicans in the Bush Congress, those Democrats Lite who brought us the swelling deficit that Obama later blew up even further. We’re tired of compromise. We have the power. Let’s use it! And oh, default won’t happen and/or won’t be so bad.
I won’t debate the fiscal merits of the Tea Party case. That’s not what this post is about, nor do I have all the facts at my fingertips. You might say the devil is in the details, and if you haven’t learned the details of each proposal and tried to ascertain exactly what their consequences will be then you should just shut up. But I have been frustrated in my attempts to do so. Most of what I’ve read seems to be a combination of cheerleading, spin, and glib summaries. I have yet to find what I would consider a dispassionate and objective discussion of all the issues and proposals involved, or even an attempt at one.
You might say that I ought to have the patience to wade through it all. You might say that if I read enough about it, it would come clear. But it hasn’t happened. And I submit that I am far more typical of most of the American public than those who pick through this stuff with a fine-tooth comb and argue about how many tax loopholes can dance on the head of a pin.
People are sick of Congress, sick of this president, sick of the whole thing. They are not reading a lot of details. They are just seeing the overview and the sound bites and getting impressions from that. And their impressions are bad.
What do the people want? I think it’s this: Reined-in spending. A bona fide and serious attempt to reduce the debt enough to make it manageable. A government that seems reasonable run by people who can work together to actually accomplish these things. A pipe dream, probably.
The Tea Party members of Congress who are hanging tough may get what they want. They may force enough concessions from Boehner that they get a bill they can vote for. Then what? The Senate almost certainly won’t pass it, and whatever you or I may prognosticate about the next step is probably incorrect—except that the public will grow ever more weary and disillusioned and angry and frightened.
“Frightened” is an important part of it. You might say there’s no reason for the looming prospect of a default to frighten anyone; it’s bogus. You haven’t convinced me, though. One thing I do know is that if people are frightened, it affects the economy negatively. Whatever the economics of a pending default may be, the current climate of fear and uncertainty has very negative effects on the stock market and investment in general. And this cannot be good. The longer it lasts, the worse it probably will be.
[NOTE: Oh, and as far as the substantive issues go, will the addition of a balanced-budget amendment mean that the Boehner bill will pass muster, and pass?]