Tea Party Radical Politics Are Going To Hurt. A Lot. At Every Level.
This was my comment at the end of my last post, a reprint of an article by John Greenstein, President of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Beezer here. The real problem is that politically there’s a minority in Congress, the Tea Party wing of the Republican majority, that believes the government should only provide essential, basic services. The public at large is now beginning to understand what this minority considers ‘essential’ services. There is no real ‘debt’ problem that faces the United States. The country is in a drawn out fight against the effects of a banking collapse three years ago. Recovery is slow and unemployment stubbornly high. But eventually the world’s largest economy will recover and the deficits will decline, along with debt if the country’s leadership allows modest marginal tax rates to rise. The Affordable Care Act will also bend the health care inflation curve and that will help. Our problems are transitory, in other words, with sound forward looking fiscal policies. But the Tea Party isn’t really so much concerned about our current challenges as it’s determined to force upon all citizens their view of what government should or should not do. And among the things government ‘should not’ do is provide health care or retirement benefits, according to this view of what are ‘essential’ government services. This isn’t about changing SS for those now 55 or younger, it’s about changing SS immediately. This isn’t about bending the inflation curve in health care, it’s about getting government out of this business entirely. It’s amazing that the country finds itself facing a radical Congress, but that’s where we are.
This debate is writ large in Congress, but it’s being writ smaller at the state and municipal level. Tea Partiers and their even more radical cousins, the Free Staters, have been well funded at the state and municipal level. For every effort in Congress to starve government revenues, there is an equal effort being made at the local government level. A principal method at these levels is the one aimed at public employee wages and, in particular, benefits.
Because the private labor class is now effectively disorganized, unions now cover less than 6% of private labor today versus well over 25% a couple decades ago, private labor wages and benefits have not come anywhere near keeping pace with rising costs. Even though the private economy is much more productive and efficient than it was 20-30 years ago, almost none of the benefits have gone to labor but instead almost all the benefits have gone to the top 25% of earners.
Tea Partiers and Free Staters understand this divide in fortunes and have seized upon it, not by arguing that private labor be paid more, but by arguing public labor be paid less. In a very cynical fashion the Tea Partiers and Free Staters have turned against each other two labor constituences that should be allies.
The truth is that, just as it is with Congressional Tea Partiers, the unstated goal is to shrink government down to providing ‘essential’ services as defined by the Tea Party and the Free Staters. And the best way to force the public to accept these goals is to defund existing government. At the state and municipal level this job is made easier because these government units have to balance their budgets annually, or bi-annually in some cases. All reductions in revenues in effect force these units to reduce services dollar for dollar. This is why state and local governments are firing hundreds of thousands of teachers, firefighters, policemen and slashing social programs like hospital payments to help hospitals pay for the free services they are ethically committed to provide the poor.
It goes without saying that some people understand these viewpoints and wholeheartedly support them. But they are a minority. It’s hard to believe that a majority of Americans, particularly those dependent upon Medicare and Social Security, would agree.
Beezer again. Hat tip to Economist’s View for highlighting the CBPP analysis of the GOP budget proposals.