Sunday | January 22, 2017
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Tea Party surrenders; Its epic fail cost nation billions of dollars

You can thank Reid Ribble for taking a courageous vote.

Paul Ryan, Tom Petri, Sean Duffy and Jim Sensenbrenner — not so much.

Ribble, the Republican congressman from the Fox Valley, voted in favor of reopening the government Wednesday, one of 87 House Republicans who did so. The bill to open the government passed the fractious House of Representatives, 285-144, with all 198 Democrats supporting it.

Ryan, the former vice presidential candidate, Petri, Duffy and Sensenbrenner, the state’s other Republican members of Congress, voted “no.” Apparently, they believed it was better to push the nation to the brink of default than it was to recognize reality. We’re especially disappointed in Ryan’s decision.

And what of the tea party Republicans, the radicals who pushed for this showdown? What did they gain for the country?

Nothing of value to citizens.

Ted Cruz, the Texas senator who Sen. John McCain once called a “wacko-bird,” did fill up his campaign war chest, as did Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and others. That, it seems, was the goal all along.

But while the shutdown may have been a windfall for Cruz and the others, the same cannot be said for the rest of us.

The shutdown cost the economy $24 billion, or $1.5 billion a day, reports S&P. In fact, the respected ratings agency has reduced its September forecast of 3% annualized fourth-quarter growth by 0.6%.

Again, thanks a lot, Ted Cruz.

Do Republicans, particularly the tea party wing, understand what a futile and dangerous game they have just played? Will things be any different in January when government funding runs out again or in early February when the debt ceiling is reached once more?

With the tea party faction snug in safe, gerrymandered seats, it’s an open question. Many of them still think they did no wrong. Most of the nation thinks otherwise. No matter how Cruz and the others try to rewrite history, this was a complete and utter defeat for the Republicans. They got nothing of value for being led around by the nose by the reactionaries in their party.

“I knew how it was going to end,” said McCain, the Arizona Republican. McCain and others in his party had repeatedly warned the tea party leaders that they couldn’t defund Obamacare — the original goal — and would wound the party if they tried.

A new survey released Wednesday by the Pew Center for People and the Press revealed a widening chasm within the GOP — almost to the point that it has become two parties.

The tea party’s favorability rating, for example, has fallen dramatically among moderate and liberal Republicans, the new poll found, with only 27% of moderate and liberal Republicans having a favorable impression of the tea party, down from 46% in June. But views of the tea party have tumbled among all party identifications — Republican, Democrat or independent, according to the Pew poll, which was conducted Oct. 9-13.

Now that the government is open, there is an opportunity to have a broader discussion before the next deadline of Jan. 15 about how to structure a longer-term strategy for the federal budget. It’s unlikely that the biggest issues can be resolved — tax and entitlement reforms — but it’s possible that a framework for that longer-term discussion could be built.

The nation has a long-term debt problem that must be addressed — and it must be addressed over the long term. The scattershot approach taken so far isn’t helpful. The “sequester,” which never was meant to even take effect, isn’t an answer.

Politicians need to face the long-term concerns head-on and find a way to deal with them over a period of years, a path that was suggested three years ago by a bipartisan debt commission headed by former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson and former Democratic White House aide Erskine Bowles. That path most assuredly must include both new tax revenue and reform of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as well as long-term cuts in spending (including in the military).

— From the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel

The United States remains well off its historical norms for taxes levied as a percent of the economy as a whole — just 15.8% in 2012. There is room for modest tax increases without harming the economy.

We like the spirit of a statement released last night by Ribble after the House vote. He wrote:

“While there were parts of the bill I opposed, I have chosen to give the Congress a 90-day opportunity to actually work within a framework to budget and appropriate funds in regular order and end the nonsense of continuing resolutions.”

We hope he and others of like mind are serious.

The tea party’s simplistic and bombastic approach to governance isn’t governance at all. It’s bullying. And it may not work any longer. The tea party faction of the GOP has harmed the country — and has the potential to harm it again early next year. It’s time for smarter — and cooler — heads to prevail in the GOP.


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