Mission Accomplished

The Tea Party Shutdown

The tea party Republicans should hang a “Mission Accomplished” banner across the House of Representatives. They could flank it with large portraits of Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who has in fact, if not in name, replaced John Boehner as speaker of the House. The right-wing extremists got exactly what they wanted. Now, what will the country do about it?

In blundering into a shutdown, Boehner has lost any claim to authority. Helpfully, the speaker-in-name-only underscored this fact himself on the House floor when he mocked the way President Obama talked. Does anyone remember a real speaker going to the well of the House and making fun of a president of the United States? Can anyone now doubt who is responsible for Washington's dysfunction? The Republican right still does not accept the legitimacy of Barack Obama's presidency. This is why much of the government shut down.

The issue here is not that Congress failed to reach a “compromise.” The Democrats already have compromised, lopping about $70 billion off their budget proposal, to the dismay of many liberals. That was meaningless to a tea party crowd that seems to care not a whit about the deficit, despite its fulsome talk. It will be satisfied only if Congress denies health care coverage to about 25 million Americans, which is what “repealing Obamacare” really means.

It needs to be said over and over as long as this stupid and artificial crisis brewed by the tea party continues: Financing the government in a normal way and avoiding a shutdown should not be seen as a “concession.” Making sure the government pays its debt is not a “concession.” It’s what we expect from a well-functioning constitutional system. It’s what we expect from decent stewards of our great experiment. The extremists who have taken over the House do not believe in a normal, constitutional system. They believe only in power.

There’s a profound irony here, since no one talks more about the Constitution than the tea party. Before the Civil War, John C. Calhoun and a variety of nullifiers and future secessionists spoke incessantly about the Constitution, too. We know where that led.

In the course of things in a constitutional and democratic republic, parties win elections on the issues that matter to them. They pass laws or repeal them by majority vote. The tea party could not muster such a majority to repeal the Affordable Care Act because Democrats held the White House and the Senate in the 2012 elections. Lacking a majority, the extremists chose force. “Do what we want,” they said, “or we will render the country ungovernable.”

That’s what they have done. Everyone says Boehner knew better and did not want this outcome. But he was so fearful for his job that he let it happen.

My conservative colleague Michael Gerson had it exactly right Tuesday: “We are no longer seeing a revolt against the Republican leadership, or even against the Republican ‘establishment’; this revolt is against anyone who accepts the constraints of political reality.”

I would only add: This is also revolt against anyone who accepts majority rule and constitutional constraints.

The burden now is on Republicans who know how deeply radical and, indeed, crazy the tea party has become. These genuine, non-radical conservatives know how irresponsible this shutdown is. They know that playing around with the debt ceiling later this month would be a fundamentally unpatriotic act. “It's a dead end,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said of the shutdown strategy. King, along with Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., had the courage to stand up against the lunacy by voting against Boehner's last in a series of obstructionist proposals Monday night. Dent told CNN that as many as two hundred Republicans were secretly hoping there would be a vote on the Senate’s continuing resolution so the government could stay open. But if those Republicans exist, they are paralyzed, unwilling to stand up to the far right.

There is only one way for this to end: Republicans fed up with hysteria need to tell the far right, “Enough.” They need to overcome their abject fear of Republicans who are under Cruz-control and their cheerleaders in Rush Limbaugh’s world. They need to exit the Boulevard of Self-Inflicted Wounds.

We now know where the tea party's political experiment leads. If this shutdown does not end the tea party’s reign of intimidation, we will face one unnecessary crisis after another as the extremists keep ripping up the roots of our great constitutional system.

(c) 2013, Washington Post Writers Group

About the Author

E. J. Dionne Jr. is a syndicated columnist, professor of government at Georgetown University, and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. His most recent book is Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent (Bloomsbury Press).



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Five of my many grandchildren are covered by AHC provision allowing 26 year olds and less  to be covered by parents health plan. The GOP puts out the lie that most of the voters believe their lies and are against the ACA. Do they think my 5 grandchildren will ever trust the GOP ever? and their up coming siblings will be covered. too. ....GOPers say hello to the Whig party..

I've been saying for months that Boener is the weakest Speaker in modern history.  Maybe ever.  This group of Republicans in the House is at best irresponsible and a case can be made, I think that they are evil.  And absolutely hate-filled.  In many ways this is not about govenment policy and it isn't even about health care.  it is about a Black man in the White House. 

As far as th eAffordable Care Act goes, I have 2 kids, both still covered.  And they are disgusted with the GOP, much like Ed's granchildren.  Jimmy Kimmel had a pretty funny, but sadly accurate piece th eother night...went on the street and asked people if they preferred Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act.  Everyone supported the Affordable Care Act, and even those who like Obamacare, too preferred the ACA!  Best line of the night was a comment by one woman on the importance of an informed citizenry to democracy!  Other surveys, real ones, have shown strong support for the elements of the Act, no-pre-existing conditions, kids having access to parents insurance until 25, no lifetime caps and so on.  But the GOP has made such an effort to poison the well that people don't even know the facts. 



Dionne makes an excellent point, that a small group within one party is paralyzing the House of Representatives, and thereby the entire government. But there is an opportunity here for the President to exercise real leadership. The same opportunity exists for the 200 Democratic Members of the House (there are 232 Republican Members), and for the Senate. 

On September 17 the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released its 2013 Long-Term Budget Outlook. It is available on the CBO website, and should be widely read. Federal debt held by the public is now about 73 percent of our total annual economic output, or gross domestic product (GDP). For the next two or three years, that debt/GDP ratiowill likely fall. After that the debt will rise and by 2023 (ten years hence) will be back up to 71 percent and on an upward trajectory. The CBO has incorporated in its projections the higher taxes from repealing the Bush tax cuts on upper incomes, the additional taxes on upper incomes under ACA, and benefits of the ACA with regard to healthcare costs. The CBO also projects, while admitting the limitations of any long-range economic projection, that by 2038 the federal debt will be at 100 percent of GDP. Under an alternative scenario, debt in 2038 may actually be as high as 190 perent of GDP, and we look like Greece, with major fallout for unemployment, etc. The culprit is demographics. Today there are 4.4 working-age (18-64) people for every person 65 or older. By 2038, the ratio drops to 2.7. And those elders soak up a lot of benefits from Social Security, Medicare, etc. 

The current standoff in Congress pits those seeking a one-year delay of the ACA against those who want the law to go forward as enacted. Neither side is acknowledging openly that the current funding scenario for the overall government is unsustainable. 

President Obama has a powerful lever in his possession: the bipartisan report from the Simpson--Bowles Commission that he appointed precisely to investigate the long-term budget problem and recommend solutions. This would be an ideal moment to dust off that report, and request that Senate Leader Harry Ried and House Minority Leader Pelosi introduce legislation to enact the Simpson-Bowles reforms. Republicans, including the most fervent tea-partiers, would have immense difficulty rejecting that legislation. Only seventeen House Republicans need to join the Democrats to enact this legislation.  With just seventeen Republican  "defectors" , and the current Democratic majority in the Senate (no Republicans needed), the President would have a real budget (not just a continuing resolution) and a valid claim that real, long-term reform was led by Democrats. 

As Dionne says, the tea-party crowd has over-reached. Democrats have the numbers to address a major problem, as well as to pass a budget. Let's see what happens next.

Joesph J. Dunn


At 81 years I remember how little income my parents had to retire on. Now we oldsters are among the most well off sector of society....most have  pensions/equity/medicare/senior passes [movie and busses] With the  good health care most of us do not need the yearly SS increases. Freeze it for those having 25k income or more. Cruise ships dependent on the oldsters will hit a bump/wave  and if they sink more SS money is  saved.  (-: and raise capital gains to 20% and ALL will be well.

Ted Cruz is calculating that in order to move beyond the Tea Party crazies,  his presidential bid needs a financial collapse as the the ticket to the GOP nomination. With  Koch Bros. backing a Hiliary doc with scathing accusations, this foreign born demogogue covets the White House.. Forget the closure and get ready for the default on debt ceiling...... and how come Boehner is not crying as usual?

Mr. Gleason-

First, the good news: The "one percent" (Income above $450K household/$400K single) already pay 20% rate on capital gains, since repeal of their Bush tax cuts. More good news: households above $250K and singles above $200K pay an additional 3.8% investment income surcharge as part of the ACA. Your wish is fulfilled! 

Now, the bad news: the CBO Budget projections I described above already take that revenue into account, and the long-range picture is still bleak. So, yes, our grandchildren will thank us, and President Obama, for the ACA. They will also curse us for the era of high interest rates, high unemployment, and diminished opportunity and lifestyle in their adult years. As always, the poor will suffer most of all. Then there is the 2012 report "Reducing the Deficit by Increasing Individual Income Tax Rates" by the Tax Policy Institute (non-partisan, competent) which concluded: "raising the top two individual income tax rates to 96.2 (plus the 3.8% surcharge =100%) does not produce enough revenue to meet the debt-to-GDP target (60%) by 2020, 2025, or 2035."

With this as our projected future, why isn't the President hammering Congress to come up with not just a budget for this year, but some viable plan for the necessary intermediate and long-term spending cuts, and threatening to veto any budget that does not address these issues? Is it possible that some small group of ultra-liberals have the mainstream Democrats captive to ongoing, disasterous spending, under threat of competition in primary races?

Just wondering. 

The "one percent" (Income above $450K household/$400K single) already pay 20% rate on capital gains, since repeal of their Bush tax cuts.what about .'the era of high interest rates'

what era?

Yes 20% will be due  next year on 2013 fikings.  .. billions will be collected .. deficit is going down.. 'carried interest.'. the hedge fund loophole will be closed so more billions from Hamptons hedge fund managers will be collected... no tears will be shed by Commonweal subscribers on that.  


The era of high inerest rates I refer to is the era of the 2030s, as described in the CBO report and separately in the Tax Institute paper. Those reports predict that our children and grandchildren will endure high interest rates, high unemployment, limited opportunity, etc. As in all recessions, depressions, periods of high inflation, etc., the poor will suffer more than most. I thought, and still think,  that might be a concern to most Commonweal readers. Next year, and the year after (according to the reports) will be OK and the deficit will likely fall. From that point on the deficits rises, even with the higher tax rates, and in ten to twenty years causes major problems. But enjoy next year. 

The guiding principle is that basic health care is a human right and not a privilege. To deny it

to 25 million is not only immoral, it is an economic and public relations disaster. The GOP

under the tea-party will become as irrelevant nationally as it is now in California.

High interest in 2030s???? the market/WS is trying to know what the interest rate on Gov debt will be next week..and so is the Chinese finance minister who is holding a lot of our debt.... on Oct 17 2013.  That I will be long dead by 2030s is not any part of my distain for this long term 2030s  prediction. (-:

Yes, the current deadlock is caused by Republicans looking for a delay in the ACA. As I wrote above, there is a much bigger long-term issue which will affect the poor, and I am making the assumption, as does the CBO and Tax Institute, that ACA stays in full effect. ACA itself is not cited as "the problem" by me or the CBO or the Tax Institute. But they project that there is simply no way to raise enough money through income taxes to pay the projected expenditures in years beyond 2016. So, IF we are to avoid the very difficult times projected by both CBO and the TI, we need to address spending. This has nothing to do with whether "basic health care is a human right"--no debate there, as the Republicans will soon realize.

The issue raised by both reports is that whatever we do with taxes, even the extreme hypothetical of 100% tax rates on upper incomes, there will not be enough revenue for projected spending (including ACA, defense, education, Social Security, etc), debt will therefore rise to unsustainable levels, and the consequences described in the reports will become highly evident by the 2030s. My point is that the poor will suffer more than most in such an environment, and building in a preferrential option for the poor will require planning, decisions and actions now, rather than later. That should be the focus of Presidential and Congressional leadership, not the nonsense that currently occupies them, and it is an issue that ought to concern Commonweal readers as it affects their children and grandchildren, and the poor.

Worth thinking about?

I will try not to be snarky but predictions about what income levels, tax revenues and expenditures in 2030 are as accurate as the predictions about world overpopulation and BS predictions 'we will all starve in the 60s and 70s'...... and these predictions came  out of Stanford too. by what's his name.Paul Ehrlich?

Where is the predictions about tech, energy, innovation in the anaysis of a Tea party disaster?  China went from my 1940 mama's mantra ... 'eat all your food.. they are staving in China' ...to a new world power with trains that make ours look like trolleys...

Well, Joseph, your remarks, excluding the ACA opinions, sound very much like those of the Tea Party.  Our current economic challenges did not arise due primarily to a inadequte tax revenues.  Nor is that the primary source of the economic challenges today.  It was unbridled criminal behavior on the part of those who are now the Tea Party's corporate patrons combined with a federal executive branch dragging this nation into wars that financially profited its corporate patrons.  When they were done most who provide the nuts and bolts work that make it possible for a few to live as if their priviledged reality was earned noticed their life savings had been stolen and they now had to start over finding a new job, establishing a new mortgage, building a child college fund, preparing for retirement, etc .  It's really is that simple.  That reality continues today.

Ireland was a tax love story for corporate America until the Irish economy collapsed.  Why did it collapse?  Too few knowledgable and engaged statisticians?  Nope.  Malignant greed.  Wrap as much statistical jargon, or, if you like, current day statistical facts, around that and it changes nothing.  Nor does it provide a useful much less hopeful way forward.

Until we are unabashedly willing to call out the easily identifiable individuals and groups driving this lunacy it ain't gonna change.  Best I can tell it is a fear of anarchy driving much of the reluctance to do so.  Thing is, anarchy is what they want though I am convinced most of them struggle with so much self-absorption they do not have sufficient insight to realize that fact.

As for our affect on future generations.  Hopefully they will not face two world wars and a world wide economic depression.  If they do, however, perhaps it will help them to recall It was the descendents of those who did who played a major role in making America quite the remarkable place.   And, BTW, it was pretty much the same easily identifable individuals and groups who drove this nation into those tragic events.  The only change has been the passing of time.

My fervent prayer is President Obama stands his ground.  Otherwise, we'll just have to do it all over again. And, yes, the shutdown is affecting my life in unhelpful ways.  Thing is, compromise with zealots is simply not possible.


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