Yes, we understand that politics is a blood sport and that name-calling has become the common coin of the political realm. But this past week, following the passage of the bill to raise the debt ceiling, and before the nation’s credit rating was downgraded, the Left’s barkers unleashed a well-harmonized and profane ad hominem campaign that established a new low in American politics.
The Standard and Poor’s downgrade, which punctuated a week of very bad news, cannot entirely be laid at the feet of the Obama Administration nor the 112th Congress, because a succession of Administrations and Congresses nurtured the entitlement sacred cow that more, much more, than anything else put the nation on the road to Europe, and now, a credit rating to match. This is, however, the Administration and the Congress that could have stopped it. Frankly, we think the House-passed Ryan budget would have been an excellent start, but the common-sense proposal was slapped down by the White House as too radical. We also believe, and have stated in past essays, that the President’s own Simpson-Bowles Debt and Deficit Commission recommendations would have been a strong start down the road to fiscal sanity, but that too was slapped down by the President.
It is tempting to dismiss the terrorism tirade as simply childish, but that’s a temptation on which we’ll pass. “Terrorist” has become, perhaps, the most pejorative term in our common vocabulary. It is, after all, instantly and correctly associated with the murder of thousands of Americans, as well as innocent citizens of other civilized countries, and such grotesqueries as the beheading of captives, hostages and other non-combatants. To be labeled a “terrorist” is instantly to be consigned to (in the words of Nancy Pelosi) “the dark side”.
As is by now common knowledge, Rep. Michael Doyle of Pennsylvania was the first Democrat to use the terrorist analogy when referring, behind closed doors, to the Republican negotiators during the debt ceiling dust up. According to Politico, Vice President Biden who was present, then responded, “they have acted like terrorists.” And then, fast as one can say “chronic hoof and mouth disease,” word spread. Biden quickly denied he ever said such a thing and the White House immediately walked back (Washington lingo for reversing course) the Biden snafu with the admonishment that such talk was inappropriate.
So who are these Americans who found themselves in the cross hairs of the Left’s spin machine. Simply stated, they are those members of Congress who insisted on actually reducing federal spending, rather than settling for merely reducing the increased rate at which we spend. They want to see (horror of horrors) a balanced budget. They insisted that the debt-ceiling crisis wasn’t about slowing the rate at which we run up deficits nor about taxes, but about run-away government spending and the need to have equilibrium between what the government spends and what the government has in the till. And while their positions may be the subject of legitimate debate, the tantrums they produced within the liberal establishment were instructive. Politician after politician chimed in, talking heads who insinuate themselves into every controversy, and left-leaning columnists continued the drumbeat. Conservative elected officials made those on the left downright apoplectic, by rejecting the President’s vision for “transforming America”.
Chris Matthews was quick to call balanced budget purists “terrorists” and “hostage takers.” Not to be outdone Newsweek’s Tina Brown chimed in calling the Republicans who held out for balancing the budget, “suicide bombers,” and this exercise in hyperbole from New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, “They were like cannibals, eating their own party and leaders alive. They were like vampires, draining the country’s reputation, credit rating and compassion. They were like zombies, relentlessly and mindlessly coming back again and again to assault their unnerved victims, Boehner and President Obama. They were like the metallic beasts in “Alien” flashing mouths of teeth inside other mouths of teeth, bursting out of Boehner’s stomach every time he came to a bouquet of microphones.” New York Times Columnist Tom Friedman jumped in calling the no-compromise wing of the Republican Party the Hezbollah faction. And, again, from the New York Times, Joe Nocera contributes to the erudite coverage with, “Tea Party Republicans have waged jihad on the American people.”
For the record, we didn’t agree with the “no-compromise” position taken by many on the right. The fact remains, however, that their stand-fast pressure is what, in the final analysis, produced the compromise that took ill-advised tax-rate increases off the table and, for the first time in decades, put serious, pro-growth reform at the top of the nation’s agenda.
So just what is it that caused millions of voters to send these so-called Tea Baggers to Washington. Could it have had anything to do with the ever-further sinking approval ratings of those who represent us in Washington? Could it be that voters have finally realized that what Congress spends in Washington affects what they have to spend back home? Could it be that the country has watched a succession of governments turn our affairs of state into a sad state of affairs?
Let’s examine what really has terrorized the citizens of this country. For sure, they were tired of Bush and the excess spending during his Administration and for the financial meltdown that Wall Street caused, ironically, at the behest of incredibly short-sighted and foolish government home-ownership policy that began during he Carter years, continued through the Reagan years and grew on steroids during the Clinton and Bush (43) years.
The fact remains, however, that the deficit was, by 2007, only $161 billion and that includes spending for Bush’s unfunded prescription drug benefit, two wars and the Bush tax cuts all of which occurred early in his Administration. The economy had slipped into recession by 2008 and the deficit at the conclusion of the Bush presidency had climbed to $458 billion, and unquestionably, had he continued in office it would have continued to grow as he grappled with the financial crisis, which was already underway. But the deficit has nearly quadrupled under Obama, mostly because of spending for which we have very little to show. Some Americans probably think that’s rather terrifying.
The nation’s public debt has, today, reached 100% of GDP (higher than at any time since WWII), which many leading economists generally agree is well beyond the point at which growth begins to contract and a nation’s economic power begins to decline. This, more than anything else, has resulted in the first downgrade of the nation’s credit rating in history. People understand that we are incurring huge current debt in order to pay off huge past debt. That’s where we are, and that too is probably terrifying many people.
Within a year and half of President Obama’s inauguration the government’s public debt had spiked an additional $2.5260 trillion, which is more than the cumulative debt run up by all U.S. presidents from 1789 (Washington Administration) through 1989 (Reagan Administration). That probably terrified a few people too.
As we stated earlier in this essay, we didn’t agree with the all-or-nothing position taken by about half of the so-called tea-party faction within the Republican Party — but we understood it. It represents, we believe, the tip of a growing iceberg within the American body politic that is thoroughly exasperated by years of irresponsible government that has burdened at least two generations to come with debt that will sap the national income and, therefore, the growth and health of the country.
The so-called Tea Party, which the left is determined to demonize before the next election in an effort to stifle the national unease to which they give voice, is an authentic grass-roots movement that is a product of that very same national unease. As such, it is historic. It may be loud, often uncompromising and uncommonly determined, but it is as American as cherry pie.