It's Official: Tea Is Good for the GOP


ACRU Staff


July 25, 2011

This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published July 22, 2011 on The Washington Times website.

Of all the bombs that liberal pundits toss at the Tea Party, none better illustrates why the GOP should actually pay attention than Thursday’s article by E. J. Dionne Jr., the liberal Washington Post columnist.

Mr. Dionne, who looks at President Obama’s feet and sees water wings, often tries to advise the Republican Party out of the goodness of his heart. This week’s version of his political “Dear Abby” series is, “Toss the Tea Party aside: To forge a debt deal, the GOP must reject fringe ideas.”

Whenever Mr. Dionne professes to worry about the Grand Old Party, it’s time to pivot 180 degrees and do the opposite. This means grabbing the Tea Party, holding on tight and listening to what the heartland is saying above the Beltway noise.

It was largely due to Tea Party pressure that House leaders came up with “Cut, Cap and Balance” and passed it by a vote of 234 to 190 on July 19, though the Senate tabled it on Friday. To Mr. Dionne, the idea of cutting federal spending, capping it gradually to less than 20 percent of gross domestic product and enacting a balanced budget amendment with supermajority requirements for tax increases is “fringe.”

Mr. Dionne is especially disappointed in Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who during bipartisan talks with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. won praise “for his focus even from liberal staffers who have no use for his politics.”

Mr. Cantor listened, then walked away from the table, fortified by support from what Mr. Dionne calls “right-wing rejectionists.” That’s a step up from Harry Reid’s calling the Tea Party “evil mongers.”

Like most in the media, Mr. Dionne misrepresents the Tea Party’s position concerning the possibility of default if the debt ceiling is not raised. He wants Mr. Cantor and House Speaker John Boehner to “tell the obstreperous right that it is flatly and dangerously wrong when it claims that default is of little consequence.”

The Tea Party position is that if the debt ceiling is not raised, the country does not have to go into default. With billions in current tax revenue, Mr. Obama can write checks for interest payments, Social Security, Medicare, veterans and to pay our soldiers. After that, he can play the Washington Monument Game. That’s when liberals shut down popular government services instead of the massive bureaucratic leviathan that stretches for miles across Washington and the nation.

What really needs to happen long-term is serious reform of the entitlement systems that are bankrupting the country. A key element is block granting funds to the states so Washington won’t be able to skim so much and create perverse incentives. For a primer on why the 1996 welfare reform can be a model for restructuring entitlements, see The Carleson Center for Public Policy’s site (

In the current debt drama, Mr. Obama is posturing outrageously, threatening old people, the disabled and others that he would turn into victims. The whole thing reminds me of that tongue-in-cheek magazine cover years ago showing a dog with a gun to its head and the words, “Buy this magazine, or we’ll kill this dog.” Replace the dog with a picture of grandma and you have Mr. Obama’s subtle message.

“Our country is on the edge. Our capital looks like a lunatic asylum to many of our own citizens and much of the world,” Mr. Dionne laments in a rare, spot-on description.

He has a solution: “We need to act now to restore certainty by extending the debt ceiling through the end of this Congress.”

You mean so Mr. Obama can continue his insane spending spree and keep the debt question off the front pages until after 2012? Finally, he says, “Republicans need to decide whether they want to be responsible conservatives.”

Chew on that for a minute while reflecting on the fact that Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, unlike the conservative-led GOP House, has not produced a budget in two years. If that’s being a “responsible liberal,” then what does an irresponsible liberal look like? Insert your own punch line here.

A CNN poll released Thursday shows that a majority of the folks in the survey don’t want the debt ceiling raised. Sixty-six percent do favor this proposal: “Congress would raise the debt ceiling only if a balanced budget amendment were passed by both houses of Congress and substantial spending cuts and caps on future spending were approved.”

That’s “Cut, Cap and Balance” in a nutshell. But wait. Those polled are a bit conflicted. In the same survey, 73 percent want to increase taxes paid by oil and gas companies. Apparently, they won’t mind when these costs are passed on to them at the pump or they haven’t connected the dots.

Another 76 percent responded to Mr. Obama’s latest class warfare gambit by favoring an increase in taxes on businesses that own private jets. And finally, in another burst of Marxist, redistributionist spirit, 76 percent say they want to increase taxes “paid by people who make more than $250,000 a year.”

It’s too bad that so many people apparently despair of ever making that much. It tells me that we can’t expand Junior Achievement programs fast enough. Also, it means we need to redouble efforts to break the monopoly of government schools that teach children socialist economics.

As the debt ceiling deadline approaches, Republicans and Democrats who want to save what’s left of our country had better throw away the bottle of Old Profligacy, sober up and take up the Tea Party mandate to cut back government and restore our constitutional republic.

It’s not what Mr. Dionne, Mr. Obama or Mr. Reid would recommend, but that’s one major clue that it’s the right thing to do – not only the GOP but for our country.



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