The closer the US gets to debt ceiling D-Day, the more I find myself rooting for the Tea Party coalition in Congress. Part of the reason is that I love big news stories. I root for record temperatures in the summer and historic snowfalls in the winter. I can’t help it; it’s how I’m built.
I cheer for this stuff even when it adversely affects me. As I watched my meager retirement account halved in 2008, for example, a tiny part of me was titillated by the drama. I watched, mesmerized, to see if it would fall farther still and was a little disappointed story-wise when it did not. I know that’s twisted — I’ll now be working to the age of 80 if I am able — but it’s the God’s honest truth.
So when I began secretly cheering for the debt ceiling hardliners, I had to check my motives. Was this “what if” fascination — like Kramer on Seinfeld driving mile after highway mile on an empty gas tank — or is some principle actually at stake?
When I see how these elected members of Congress are being trashed, I have to grudgingly admit that some principle may actually have crept into play. These men and women were elected to stop runaway federal spending. They campaigned on that pledge and voters in their districts responded to them.
Now these elected members of Congress — and those that sent them there — are being painted as reckless zealots. They are not. They are highly unusual politicians — ones who stick by their guns no matter what. And they will use every bit of leverage they can muster to force structural change upon Washington, because to them — and their constituents — unsustainable US debt is far more dangerous to the future of this country than a roiled bond or stock market.
They know exactly what they are doing. If they do not relent, President Obama and the Democrats in Washington finally will be forced to make fundamental cuts in the Washington bureaucracy — changes fiscal conservatives have never been able to achieve. These Tea Party Republicans don’t care if that firm stand costs them their jobs. They will have done what they came to do in Congress.
A favorite term being used to describe this group is “extremist” — “Tea Party extremists.” But what could be more extreme than a government that borrows 40 cents on every dollar it spends and wants to expand on that? That is bananas. Sheer lunacy. It is stealing from our children, literally.
President Obama and Harry Reid love to invoke Ronald Reagan’s name in this debate. Even Reagan would have taken such and such a deal, they suggest. But government was far smaller when Reagan was in office and his principle mission was to defeat the Soviet Bloc. It was the Soviets that Reagan perceived to be America’s biggest danger in those days. Today, unquestionably, that danger is debt. And the Ronald Reagan I recall — the one who stood firm against the Communists in Berlin and the wildcat air traffic control strikers here at home — would have been perfectly comfortable digging in his heels with the best of them in Congres.
Stand firm. Make ‘em squirm. It’s downright Reaganesque.