The same we-won-the-election-and-elections-have-consequences lefties now cry out for "bipartisanship." Those who cheered the bulldog way that ObamaCare became law now want the resurgent Republicans to "reach across the aisle," "set aside partisan rancor" and "put the country first."
"Watching the extraordinary polarization in Washington today," said CNN host Fareed Zakaria, "many people have pointed the finger at the tea party. It's ideologically extreme, refuses to compromise and cares more about purity than problem solving. I happen to agree with much of that critique. ... Why has the tea party become so prominent? Why is it able to dominate Washington?"
Answer: President Barack Obama created the tea party.
He ran as a left-wing Democrat and proceeded to govern accordingly. For the first two years of his presidency, he enjoyed supermajorities in the House and the Senate. ObamaCare and the first -- and biggest -- "stimulus" got through both houses of Congress with virtually zero Republican support. When Republicans put forward their views on tax policy, Obama reminded them of the election results. "I won," he sniffed.
Fast forward. Voters, in the next election, repudiate the Obama agenda. A majority opposes ObamaCare, and over half of the states' attorneys general sue to overturn it. Polls show that most Americans believe "stimulus" failed or made no difference. Americans reject as hype the apocalyptic "climate change" warnings used to justify massive government "investment" in "green technologies of the future."
The Democrats lose control of the House and their supermajority in the Senate. Republicans receive ideological and financial support from the tea party -- a truly grass-roots, nationwide uprising against the massive two-year expansion of government and the addition of nearly $4 trillion in new debt. Nearly all House and Senate Republicans sign an anti-tax-hike pledge.
Next it's showdown. Why, say Republicans, should Congress raise the debt ceiling and enable the government to borrow yet more money, while doing nothing to deal with the reason it needs to keep doing it? It's about time we had this debate.
Medicare is underfunded, depending upon who does the calculating, by a minimum of $30 trillion. The Social Security "trust fund" now spends more than it takes in. Medicaid, a state and federal poverty program, is for many states their fastest-growing expense.
With the debt-to-GDP ratio projected to breech 100 percent this year, the highest since World War II, this historically routine vote on raising the debt ceiling has become a referendum on reckless, unfunded welfare/entitlement spending.
Republicans hold the winning hand -- both politically and as a matter of policy. A recent CNN poll finds 66 percent of Americans support raising the debt ceiling only if done with "substantial spending cuts and caps on future spending," as well as a balanced budget amendment to keep spending at a fixed percentage of GDP. A whopping 74 percent want a balanced budget amendment -- period.
Democrats hold a bad hand. What to do? Claim that President Ronald Reagan considered the full faith and credit of America so important, default so unimaginable, even he would have accepted higher taxes.
MSNBC's Chris Matthews quoted part of a 1987 Reagan address: "Congress consistently brings the government to the edge of default. ... This brinkmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely on Social Security and veterans benefits. Interest rates would skyrocket, instability would occur in financial markets, and the federal deficit would soar. The United States has a special responsibility to itself and the world to meet its obligations."
Reagan's address did not end there. Here's the part the Matthews skipped over: "For those who say more taxes will solve our deficit problem, they are wrong. Every time Congress increases taxes, the deficit does not decrease, spending increases. It's time for a clear and consistent policy to reduce the federal budget deficit. ... You don't need more taxes to balance the budget. Congress needs the discipline to stop spending more, and that can be done with the passage of a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. ... But I ... will not permit Congress to dismantle our national defense, to jeopardize arms reduction or to increase your taxes. I am determined that will not happen."
Relax, lefties. Things could be worse. Suppose the tea party did not exist. Imagine the economy-damaging spending binge had the Dems retained their congressional majorities. The economy would be sputtering even more. Some disillusioned liberals would even start quoting Reagan: "If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."
So, go ahead, President Obama. "Cave." Drop the tax-hike demand. Grumble that the party of "millionaires and billionaires" pressured you "by holding the nation hostage." Call the Republicans heartless and greedy. Then, like Bill Clinton, take credit for the resultant improving economy. Cruise to re-election. Works like a charm.