Tea Party Win
EJ Dionne is half right:
Take five steps back and consider the nature of the political conversation in our nation's capital. You would never know that it's taking place at a moment when unemployment is still at 9 percent, when wages for so many people are stagnating at best and when the United States faces unprecedented challenges to its economic dominance.
No, Washington is acting as if the only real problem the United States confronts is the budget deficit; the only test of leadership is whether the president is willing to make big cuts in programs that protect the elderly; and the largest threat to our prosperity comes from public employees.
Take five more steps back and you realize how successful the Tea Party has been. No matter how much liberals may poke fun at them, Tea Party partisans can claim victory in fundamentally altering the country's dialogue.
It's true that our political dialog is focused on some problems that are not acute while ignoring those that are. But you'll notice that it's not the Tea Party agenda actually being enacted so much as the Tea Party's corporate owners. They are making a big play to completely defund and totally defang the left. The real Tea Party agenda (culture war issues) is being passed in the House, but it's mostly bread and circuses --- and it's keeping liberals occupied playing defense. (In this environment you can't take anything for granted --- you never know who the Democrats will sacrifice.)These irrational budget "fixes" are shock doctrine moves, obviously coordinated by the GOP down to the state level.
I'm glad that Dionne has noticed that despite Obama's charisma and super-fabulous "success" in the lame duck session, the right is firmly in charge. That's what happens when the political system depends upon billions and billions of their dollars. But he's not all the way there yet.
This is an excellent step, however:
More striking is the Tea Party's influence on Washington's political elite, which looks down at the more extreme men and women of the right when they appear on Fox News but ends up carrying their water.
Lori Montgomery reported in The Post last week that a bipartisan group of senators thinks a sensible deficit reduction package would involve lifting the Social Security retirement age to 69 and reforming taxes, purportedly to raise revenue, in a way that would cut the top income tax rate for the wealthy from 35 percent to 29 percent.
Only a body dominated by millionaires could define "shared sacrifice" as telling nurses' aides and coal miners they have to work until age 69 while sharply cutting tax rates on wealthy people. I see why conservative Republicans like this. I honestly don't get why Democrats - "the party of the people," I've heard - would come near such an idea.
Follow the money.