Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots and one of the leaders of the Tea Party movement, is glad to claim credit, on behalf of Tea Party-ism, for bringing the U.S. government to brink of its legal debt limit. “I think the Tea Party movement should get the credit for elevating the debate about the debt limit to the national stage,” he said in an interview with the Daily Beast published yesterday.
If you haven’t heard a smart, sincere Tea Partyite make the case, perhaps you should read this interview. If you don’t click through, I’ve excerpted three of his answers below, that capture three of the main Tea Party talking points, each of which, I must admit, has a certain persuasive power. I’ll briefly describe the three points:
Yes, compromise is bad. Debt and deficit hawks always compromise with borrow-and-spend-ers and the result is that the national debt is now closing in on 100 percent of the GDP, a level it reached only once before and that was to fight the true emergency of World War II.
The threat of “default” is a shape-shifting lie. For months, we have been led to believe that “default” meant a failure to make interest payments on the existing debt, with long-lasting cataclysmic impact on the U.S. gold-plated credit rating. But if you listen carefully, there has never been any danger of that. Now the word “default” has shifted to a situation in which the U.S. has enough money to pay all of its creditors and has plenty of revenue to keep paying for the most vital government expenses. Under this scenario, the government must choose, from among all the things it now pays for – many of which the Tea Party views as unnecessary – which will continue to be funded.
And lastly, promises of spending cuts down the road are empty promises. Long-time Washington hands, including Speaker John Boehner, can’t’ be trusted to keep promises of better behavior in the future. The current Boehner proposal to cut future spending by $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years, is not only embarrassingly small, but it is not binding. Hardly any of the savings occur under the current-year budget and this Congress cannot enforce a budget-cutting promise it impose of future congresses.
Here, from the Daily Beast interview, are those views in Meckler’s own words:
What do you think about the proposal that Speaker Boehner has put out?
It’s an embarrassment. He proposes $1.4 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years. Legally, no Congress can bind a future Congress. Anything he promises about what future Congresses will do, they simply can’t make that promise. In the real world, we call that a lie. If you promise something that you have no control over, that’s called a lie. In Congress, it’s called a promise. We don’t understand how the American people don’t get that. No. 2, no Congress has ever been able, by wish or by promise, to bind future Congresses to spending cuts. When past Congresses cut spending under their own budgets, those spending cuts will never and have never materialized. It’s smoke and mirrors and the American people understand this.
We’re hearing that if the debt limit is not raised by August 2nd that the country will go into default or stop paying its bills. Are you worried about that?
First of all, that’s a lie. They’re talking about default on the sovereign obligations of the United States. The only way that we will default on our debt and default on the service of our debt is if the president and Secretary Geithner choose to default. It’s irresponsible for anyone to talk about defaulting on our obligations because we’re not going to unless we choose to. Republicans have offered the Full Faith and Credit Act that would require that we pay those obligations first, but unfortunately the Republican leadership hasn’t even let that come to the floor.
Is there is any role for compromise here? Congress is usually about laying out your positions and splitting the difference.
We’ve been compromising for decades and that’s why we’re $14.3 trillion in debt now. We have compromised our way to the edge of fiscal disaster.