Thursday, November 04, 2010

Yea, Good Luck With That!

The naivete of the Teabaggers is pretty astounding:
“If [new Republican members] vote to uphold our core values, against pressure from their party leadership, we can give them the political backing they need,” says Martin [Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots], vowing that the Tea Partiers’ frantic pace of calling, e-mailing, rallying, and lobbying Congress will not slow.

They’re likely going to have a lot of opportunities to protest. Past Republican takeovers of the federal government have led to conservative activists feeling betrayed by concessions to political pragmatism and policy necessity: Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and the last Republican Congress abandoned various pledges to cut spending and ultimately accrued massive debts. The same political and mathematical realities apply today: Social Security, Medicare, and defense spending are popular among the older voters upon whom the GOP relies. If you do not cut those programs, and you do not raise taxes, you simply cannot balance the budget—even if Republicans fulfill their campaign pledge to cut domestic discretionary spending down to its 2008 levels. “People think the two parties argue about government spending, but they’re really arguing over a very small piece of government spending,” says Scott Lilly, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, and a former staff director for the House Appropriations Committee. Even Tea Partiers who would be willing to see spending cuts to defense or entitlement programs are being set up for unavoidable disappointment, because Republicans did not even propose any such cuts in their campaign platform.

Estimates are that the GOP will be able to cut spending by about $100 billion. Given the mess the Bush administration left us, that's not very much. Too, a huge portion of the Teabagger support comes from (drumroll please) old folks on scooters provided by Medicare who skipped rallies on the third of each month to await their Social Security checks.

You know, as codified in the classic sign "Keep Government Out Of My Medicare!"
Too, there's a darker force at work, one that the Teabaggers are going to have to confront if they want to succeed, and one that will lead them to obliteration as a political force: Corporate America.
The dirty little secret of the Republican party is the corporatocracy LIKES government spending. Most of the major advances in technology in the 20th Century were either the direct result of government research or were at least partly funded by the government. Much of this falls under the defense spending budget, to be sure, but things like NASA and microchips and plastics and...well, you get the idea.
So that really only leaves social programs, and if you exclude Social Security and Medicare as I noted above, that really leaves welfare and housing. In a four trillion dollar budget, excluding Social Security and Medicare, that's maybe $300 billion dollars, almost all of which is block grants to states for Medicaid. Cut that, and you force states to raise taxes (particularly red states with Republican governors, which is where the lion's share of those grants go). So that's off the table. You might be able to reduce unemployment compensation ($200 billion), but considering that many of those Teabaggers who weren't on Social Security or Medicare only had time to attend rallies because they were unemployed, that's not likely to fly either.
(By the way, a great site for these figures is here)
Once you factor Social Security, Medicare, and defense out of the picture, that's roughly half the budget, and now you're scraping the pork. Teabaggers hold some sway in the party, but not enough to keep Congresscritters from getting pork to their districts-- highway spending, bridges to nowhere, farm subsidies.
And keep in mind that at the end of the day, there's a Democrat in the White House who is not only popular, but can only grow more so as the children in Congress throw temper tantrums, and the perception of his imperial Presidency fades. Plus, President Obama has history on his side: only three Presidents have lost as many seats in Congress in their first terms-- Truman, Eisenhower, and the Big Dog, Bill Clinton.
All three won re-election handily. Truman even said after he lost both houses that he was now free to do as he pleased.
Sage advice, Mr. President.