A Problem With Political Disciples

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - August 17, 2011
| Del.icio.us

Michele Bachmann. AP photo

After the long and embarrassing debate over raising the nation’s debt ceiling, the members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation came home last week looking dazed. In a press availability, U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye put the best face he could on a bad, one-sided deal: “It’s a first step, not a final solution.”

It certainly isn’t. When Congress reconvenes, a commission of 12 six Democrats, six Republicans will begin work on cutting $1.2 trillion more by Dec. 26.

Will the process be any more civil and reasonable? Maybe. If the 12 stalemate, $500 billion will come out of the Defense budget, $500 billion out of Medicare, sufficient sums to chasten Republicans and Democrats alike perhaps sufficient to quiet the rancor of recent debate.

But I doubt it.

Tea pollutes the current Congress, and Tea’s disciples for disciples they are will never compromise with President Obama or Democrats on health care, educational opportunity, the plight of the aged and unemployed or the need for increased revenue. The Tea Partyers are convinced that bloated government is the only problem and committed to their pledge not to raise a tax or close a tax loophole in order put the nation’s fiscal house in order.

Ideology is all important to members of the Tea Party, and absolute subservience to an ideology in a legislative body is a prescription for gridlock and worse. The Founders knew it during their 18th century deliberations over the Constitution of the United States, and so too did Whigs, Republicans and Democrats during the great crises of American history.

House speaker, 20-year congressional veteran and non-Tea Party Republican John Boehner understands it as well. Boehner and Obama had a deal: a $4 trillion cut in the national debt that included cuts in Medicare a program Democrats and almost every American over the age of 60 like very much. But the Obama-Boehner compromise called for elimination of some tax loopholes. That’s called compromise.

The Tea Partyers would have none of it. Said Minnesota congresswoman and Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann: “I am not fooled by President Obama’s math ... I refuse to be a party to deceiving the American people yet again. I won’t do it. I will vote against any proposal that includes tax increases or raises the debt ceiling.”

So ideological purity was maintained. The Tea Partyers and their leader, Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor, forced Boehner to pull out of a $4 trillion cut in the national debt in exchange for a lastminute, $2.1 trillion cut. Go figure. No, for your sanity’s sake, dear reader, don’t.

So here we are, staring at the abyss once again come December. What’s a Democratic congresswoman from faraway Hawaii to do at such a daunting prospect? Said Mazie Hirono last week: “I’m going to continue to focus on jobs, the middle class, seniors and kids.”

I wish Hirono luck, but fear she will meet with frustration. The current national unemployment rate hovers above 9 percent. Hawaii stands at an enviable 6 percent, but looks far worse to anyone whose unemployment contributes to that 6 percent.

Hirono spoke of a program to repair the nation’s infrastructure as a means of creating jobs. Obama has been talking about some such program for the past three years.

Once off the ground, Honolulu’s rail project will create jobs. But nationally it’s difficult to imagine Tea Partyers slashing with one hand and agreeing to a significant jobs program with the other. Prisoners of ideology know no such flexibility.


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