Sunday, July 31, 2011

Centrism in extremis: how "serious people" handed the hostage-takers their weapons

A moment of great opportunity?
Jon Chait at New Republic offers some important analysis of how the "serious center" enabled the hostage-takers and outright loonytoons types of the Tea Party - who are driving Republican strategy and threatening to take the country off of an economic cliff in an act of political insanity never before even seriously contemplated in American politics.

His conclusion is clear and simple: "...the deficit hawks who represent the center of Washington establishment thought badly underestimated the danger entailed by tying high stakes negotiations involving the Republican Party to a cataclysmic event." 

Deficit reduction, focused on conjured issues like the future budgets of Medicare or Social Security (which have absolutely nothing to do with our deficits or the debt ceiling), has become the Holy Grail among many Beltway types - when in fact the economic crisis we actually face is about jobs and resultant shortfalls in federal revenues, made worse by a decade of profligate tax cuts.

The hysteria around deficits is not just wrong-headed but dangerous in our current straits - former Council of Economic Advisors chair Laura D'Andrea Tyson warned this week that "the risk grows that large, premature cuts in government spending will reduce aggregate demand, will tip the economy back into recession and drive the unemployment rate back into double digits." The way out of crisis is not through slashing the federal budget but by getting people back to work and, ultimately,  re-balancing our tax code.

The "deficit hawks" dominating "serious" Washington-centric opinion have consistently acted as enablers of a "Tea Partyized" GOP - the runaway vehicle driven by an extremist faction whose agenda ranges from incoherence steeped in cultural resentments to the outright sinister and duplicitous Randian schemes of Norquist & Co.