Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Ayn Rand Cult running amok in Congress

Once one realizes that most of the Tea Party members of Congress really believe that government is a parasitic organization that sucks the life out of our society, rather than how society determines and implements national policy for itself, then one must conclude that they will try to force a default. They have faith that the rest of the Congress will cave into their demands.

The Tea Party lives in an intellectual bubble where the answers to every problem lie in books by Ayn Rand and Glenn Beck. Rand’s anti-government writings, regarded by her followers as modern-day scripture – Rand, an atheist, would have bristled at that comparison – are particularly instructive. When the hero of Rand’s breakthrough novel, “The Fountainhead,” does not get what he wants, he blows up a building. Rand’s followers see that as gallant. So perhaps it should not surprise us that blowing up the government is no big deal to some of the radical narcissistic individualists in our House of Representatives. Republicans need to decide whether they want to be responsible conservatives or whether they will let the Tea Party destroy the House That Lincoln Built in a glorious explosion. Such pyrotechnics may look great to some people on the pages of a novel or in a movie, but they are rather unpleasant when experienced in real life.

The Tea Party’s followers are endangering our nation’s credit rating. They are also endangering the Republican Party by pushing both House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor away from compromising with the Democrats to solve this problem. Cantor worked amicably with the negotiating group organized by Vice President Joe Biden and won praise for his focus even from liberal staffers who have no use for his politics. Yet when the Biden group seemed close to a deal, it was shot down by the Tea Party’s champions – and Cantor walked out since he serves as a spokesman for the Tea Party.

Twice now, when Boehner came near a bigger budget deal with President Obama, the same extreme right-wing rejectionists blew this up, too – or maybe Boehner always planned to walk out when the time was right (after the close of the markets). Boehner and Cantor owe their House majority in part to Tea Party supporters so they are in a box and pretty much must do what they are told to do by the Tea Party freshmen in the House. Neither of the two House leaders seems in a position to tell the obnoxious Tea Party that it is flatly and dangerously wrong when it claims that default is of little consequence. Rarely has a congressional leadership been so powerless.

The evidence suggests that both Boehner and Cantor understand the risks of the game their Republican colleagues are playing; and they know we are closer than we think to the credit rating of the United States being downgraded. This may actually happen before August 2, which is the date everyone is using as the deadline.

It is not much better in the Senate. Compare the impasse Boehner and Cantor are in with the aggressive maneuvering of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. He knows how damaging default would be and has been working with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to figure a way out – although I understand this deal is dead in the water in the House. McConnell can do this because he does not have a Tea Party problem in the Senate that so bedevils Boehner and Cantor. Many of the Tea Party’s Senate candidates – Sharron Angle in Nevada, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Joe Miller in Alaska – lost in 2010.

Capitol Hill looks like a lunatic asylum to many of our own citizens and much of the world as the Ayn Rand Cult runs amok in Congress. Quite simply, it appears that the Tea Party’s legions are not interested in governing – at least not as governing is normally understood in a democracy with separated powers. They believe that because the Republicans won one house of Congress in one election, they have a mandate to force upon this the nation whatever the right wing wants. The Democratic president and Senate are dismissed as irrelevant nuisances, even though they, too, were elected.

Our country is on the edge of an economic abyss. We need to act now to restore certainty to the markets and the economy by extending the debt ceiling through the end of this Congress – past January 2013. Republicans are going to have to cut loose from the Tea Party and get with the Democrats to increase the debt ceiling.

I hope it will not be too difficult for Americans to figure out who is truly to blame if this country defaults (the 'no new revenue', 'my way or the highway', 'we will never compromise' Party of No). If we truly default, I pray that this will be the beginning of bringing back the moderate wing of Republican Party in America. It may have to fracture into an ultra-right party and a center/fiscally cautious party which will bring many Independents and right-leaning Dems with it. Of course, the price for this welcome political development would be a 15% unemployment rate, higher inflation, and higher 30-year mortgages. But clearly, the Tea Party does not seem to care, or understand how government is all about compromise. I would love to see every one of the Teabaggers become a pariah. 

And I wish the entire country will learn that this extremely dysfunctional gridlock is what happens when you elect members of the Ayn Rand Cult to Congress but it won't.

Hopefully, we will be witnessing the demise of Tea Party in the next election. But I will not be holding my breath because the more I watch the political process, the more I realize how malleable the electorate is – especially those on the right.  I have become concerned that we may be seeing a huge shift to the right that will last a decade until the 20-somethings who helped to vote Obama into office become more involved.