There are those who doubt the new activists’ sincerity, asking, in effect, “Where were you when George W. Bush was spending faster than Lyndon Johnson?” It’s a fair question. The Tea Partiers insist they’re nonpartisan, devoted only to staving off our looming fiscal apocalypse by any means necessary. If so, they can prove their authenticity by backing substantial cuts in entitlements and defense…. Rail against earmarks, foreign aid and “welfare queens” to your heart’s content. But all that comes to a rounding error in a $3.7 trillion federal budget, over 75 percent of which consists of defense and entitlements…. Bartlett doubts many of them have the fortitude to embrace what’s necessary to solve the budget crisis without raising taxes. Here’s their chance to prove him wrong. The Tea Partiers — often thought to be hawks — might further demonstrate their credibility by calling for cuts in the Pentagon’s $663 billion bottom line. As my colleague Ben Friedman likes to point out, we don’t really have a “defense” budget: “The adjective is wrong.”…
[I]t’s pretty clear that the GOP isn’t serious about reducing spending. House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, distanced the party from the road map almost as soon as it was released, leaving reporters with the distinct impression that Ryan had soiled the punchbowl. In the middle of the recent fight against socialized medicine, Republicans fought hard to protect the chunk of our health care system that’s already socialized. If there’s money to be saved trimming waste from Medicare, “we should spend it on Grandma!” insisted Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. GOP leader Michael Steele proposed a “contract with seniors” insulating Medicare from cuts.
But that’s no surprise. Politicians live to get re-elected, and they won’t change their behavior unless and until voters force them to. What this country desperately needs is a political movement that will pressure them to change their ways. The Tea Partiers could become that movement — if they’re serious.
February 20, 2010
Gene Healy: Tea Partiers Should Get Serious
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