Jim, I largely agree with you on the tea party. I do think historically they will be a blip and there is a good chance their current craziness is the beginning of their end. There are a couple of points I would add. One, the media has to bear a lot of the blame for the strength of the tea party. Our media doesn’t really practice journalism anymore; they simply report on the loudest squeaky wheel, the craziest train wreck, the nuttiest thing that will get the best short-term ratings. You’d never know it from watching network or cable news, but the Tea Party caucus in the House has about 60 members. Meanwhile, the largest of the sub-caucuses in the house, after of course the main Republican and Democratic caucuses, is the Congressional Progressive Caucus, with about 76 members. They authored a beautiful piece of detailed legislation called the People’s Budget, which was a fair balanced way of actually dealing with the budget. They tried to talk about it, but were systematically ignored by the network news, while the tea party was covered incessantly. (It was covered some, i.e. even the Washington Post said “The Congressional Progressive Caucus plan wins the fiscal responsibility derby thus far.” But it wasn’t covered daily, continually, the way the tea party cries for cuts and slashes were.) They would probably say there weren’t votes for the People’s Budget so they didn’t need to cover it, yet by so over publicizing the tea party, they legitimized a minority at the expense of the majority (and let us not forget all the network anchors are millionaires, and in that top one percent, and they aren’t immune to skewing the news to protect their own. Sure, they’d cry foul at that characterization, but wouldn’t be able to offer any evidence to show it isn’t true).
You talk about stability, and it reminds me a bit of Paul Krugman’s idea of the confidence fairy–that if business was just confident about the future they would hire people, so we have to make sure they have more and more money and know they’ll never have to pay more taxes, as that is all that can ever make them confident. Krugman says hogwash, the only thing that will make them confident, and I say the only thing that will provide the needed stability, is demand. If people have money to buy goods and services, businesses will hire people to provide them. If no one has any money to buy anything, there is no way there will be stability or confidence, and the economy will continue to sputter. And yet John Boehner–now king of the crazies?–has doubled down again and said the reason our credit was downgraded was because we didn’t cut enough. That’s the exact opposite of the truth of course; S&P saw that without tax increases and with no specific cuts in the goofy bill, we were just play acting at doing something, and they had no confidence we’d get our act together. So I really hope you’re right Jim that we will start to see a move back towards adult discussion in the center.
Related to all this is that we need a massive education program to educate the American people on what the government does, because the tea party has been far too successful in spreading the lie that government does nothing good, and is all waste and corruption. This Catherine Rampell column is a few months old and as relevant as ever. It is worth printing out the table to use as a handy reference when talking to tea partiers or anyone on the right who wants to cut government spending. People get help from the government all the time, but don’t think they do. 44% of social security recipients say they’ve never used a government social program. 53% of student loan recipients. 43% of people who have received unemployment. 40% of those who have used the GI Bill. 39% of Medicare recipients. And it goes on. How can you look at it and not conclude that about half our country is clueless, or has been brainwashed by the right-wing? Our only hope is to educate them and to work for a better, more effective government.
No wonder these people just want to slash spending. They don’t realize how government spending has helped them, and for almost all of us, it has helped us. When someone tells you they want to cut spending, go down this list and ask them what things they want to cut.
Jim, I love the DB Cooper reference. I have to admit, I find that mystery more interesting than Palin, Perry, or Bundy. It’s always fun when a 40-year-old mystery makes its way back into the news.