The deficit is largely the result of “feel-good” bipartisan policies supported by the political establishment. But rather than taking credit for the deficit it helped to create, the liberal establishment blames it on political outsiders like the Tea Party who have little influence over public policy. Sometimes, the Tea Party is accused of supporting policies it had nothing to do with.
Writing at his blog at The Atlantic, liberal commentator Andrew Sullivan recently faulted the “Tea Party” for the recent budget-busting deal between Obama and congressional leaders that exploded the deficit by extending tax cuts, unemployment benefits, and government handouts: “immediately after the election, moreover, they did a deal borrowing a huge amount more and adding $700 billion to the debt.”
The irony is that Sullivan, one of Obama’s biggest cheerleaders, had earlier endorsed that very deal, a deal also endorsed by liberal media like the Washington Post because of its government handouts. In a confusing explanation, Sullivan praised this new “stimulus package financed by borrowing” as creating “the best context for serious reform” of the nation’s finances; its “big new stimulus” would help Obama “as he moves toward re-election.”
By contrast, some Tea Partiers publicly opposed the deal for adding to the deficit. A Wall Street Journal article quotes a Tea Party activist and Senate candidate saying that “she decided to run after watching Congress pass legislation during this month’s lame duck session, including a package of tax cuts, that added to the national debt.”
Most Tea Party bloggers took no position on the deal. The few that did either opposed it or reluctantly supported it as the best one could expect from a government that would still be dominated by liberals in the next Congress (with Democrats controlling both the White House and the Senate).
I criticized the deal in a blog post that was reproduced at a blog called “Freedom Action“ that includes many Tea Party members. It drew no objections from any blogger or reader at that site (which has more than 300 members). I noted that the billions it will spend on extending unemployment benefits won’t stimulate the economy, but will financially burden states. 30-40 state unemployment funds are already insolvent or teetering on the edge, thanks to past federal extensions of unemployment benefits. Giving people unemployment benefits for years on end discourages people from taking lower-paying jobs, and results in some recipients gaming the system. It encourages people not to relocate in search of work, and not to take productive jobs that they think are beneath them, even if those jobs are the only jobs that they will realistically find once their jobless benefits come to an end, because of the disappearance of the type of job they once performed.
As the Heritage Foundation notes, “The consequences of extended unemployment benefits are some of the most conclusively established results in labor economic research. Extending either the amount or the duration of UI benefits increases the length of time that workers remain unemployed. UI benefits subsidize unemployment. They reduce the incentive unemployed workers have to search for new work and to make difficult choices–such as moving or switching industries–to begin a new job.” (The deal also contains other disincentives to work.)
Admittedly, the deal is not as economically-destructive as some of the measures that Obama previously pushed through Congress on party-line votes, such as the $800 billion stimulus package, which actually shrank the economy in several ways. (The stimulus used “green-jobs” subsidies to send American jobs overseas. 79 percent of those subsidies went to foreign firms, such as an Australian firm that imported Japanese wind turbines, effectively outsourcing American jobs. It also wiped out jobs in America’s export sector.)