The Tea Party’s Modest Proposal
WASHINGTON, DC – America’s Tea Party has a simple fiscal message: the United States is broke. This is factually incorrect – US government securities remain one of the safest investments in the world – but the claim serves the purpose of dramatizing the federal budget and creating a great deal of hysteria around America’s current debt levels. This then produces the fervent belief that government spending must be cut radically, and now.
There are legitimate fiscal issues that demand serious discussion, including how to control growth in health-care spending and how best to structure tax reform. But the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party cares more about small government than anything else: its members insist, above all, that federal tax revenue never be permitted to exceed 18% of GDP. Their historical antecedent is America’s anti-revenue Whiskey Rebellion in 1794, not the original anti-British, pro-representation Boston Tea Party in 1773.
Most importantly, their tactics have proven massively destructive of wealth in the US. Since the prolonged showdown over the budget began earlier this year, the stock market has lost about 20% of its value (roughly $10 trillion). In effect, the Tea Party is working hard to reduce publicly funded social benefits – including pensions and Medicare – even as its methods dramatically reduce the value of private wealth now and in the future.
We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.
To continue reading, subscribe now.
Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.
Already have an account or want to create one? Log in