Steaming on a collision course with default, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) signaled there’s no end in sight to his Party’s refusal to fund the government unless President Barack Obama negotiates on Obamacare. Boehner’s forceful rhetoric mirrors the stubborn Tea Party caucus that has kooky ideas about the economy, federal budget deficits and national debt. They blame Obama for everything, not once acknowledging that they had no problem handing former President George W. Bush a blank check to spend on two costly foreign wars and expanding Medicare Part D, for prescription drug coverage. Only since the nation’s first Black president came to town has the Tea Party raised hell with every legislative action: Forget about Bush’s $1.4 trillion budget deficit or his Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s decision to bailout the nation’s biggest financial institutions.
Tea Partiers hung the Great Recession on Obama the day he placed his left hand on the bible Jan. 20, 2009. Since then, the GOP opposed every attempt at any White House-backed legislation, especially his Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. When Bush decided to expand Medicare to the tune of $100 billion a year, the GOP didn’t say boo. When he wanted to fund trillions of dollars of foreign wars in Afghanistan in Iraq, the GOP went right along. Forget about Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and others warning that runaway defense spending would break the economy. When the economy went bust in 2007-08, former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan likened the collapse to one of the four great economic panics in the nation’s history. Yet the Tea Party remained silent when Bush urged Paulson to spend trillions in bailouts.
Boehner now insists the White House must negotiate with his Tea Party-dominated House or they won’t fund the government. Boehner and the Tea Party caucus all claim they know what’s best for the economy, slashing federal programs, calling for more austerity and ending Obamacare. They’re the same group that sent the U.S. economy spiraling into the worst recession since the Great Depression. Boehner wants more concessions, not because it’s good for the economy—or the country—but because it’s the Tea Party’s demands. “The nation’s credit is at risk because of the administration’s refusal to sit down and have a conversation,” said Boehner, despite sitting down with the president Oct. 2 and getting nowhere. House Republicans acknowledge nothing of the economic progress under Obama, taking the Dow Jones Industrials from 8,000 to over 15,000.
What should be most disturbing to independent voters is that the GOP attempts to impose its economic plan on the U.S. government. They’ve been warned by Bernanke and most reputable economists that the “sequester” or mandatory spending cuts is bad for the economy. Because of the steady rise in employment since March of 2010, the federal budget deficit has been cut in two. If Boehner or his Tea Party friends want to have a “serious conversation” about the national debt, they need to sit down with Bernanke, not Obama. He’ll tell them the debt mushroomed when Bush started his bailout programs in 2008, when the economy was headed toward a crash of epic proportions. Without his bond-buying program costing the government $85 billion a month, the U.S economy would be in the tank. Adding to the debt through quantitative easing has kept the economy growing.
If Bernake followed the GOP prescription to end QE3 and reduce adding to the national debt, the nation would quickly lapse back into a double-dip recession. Unemployment would rise and federal budget deficits would again rise. Having said that, Boehner’s issue with Obama has more to do with style, forcing the president to make some concessions. Shutting down the government to prove their point, the GOP has thrown the nation into the worst Constitutional crisis since Watergate. Playing with the purse strings, the GOP-controlled House has no leg to stand on economically. They’re past decisions plunged the nation into the worst recession since the Great Depression. Not one reputable economist advising the Federal Reserve Board agrees with the GOP’s austerity approach to economic growth. Yet Boehner insists that slashing spending is the way to go.
Leading the charge for more austerity, the Tea Party’s Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) insists the White House must have (a) structural plan to reduce government spending, (b) no new taxes and (c) measure to “mitigate harm from Obamacare.” Cruz’s prescription is built off wild speculation and would send the economy spiraling back into recession. He speaks, as other Tea Party types like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), as if they have the right formula for economic recovery. If you listen to the Fed Chairman, more austerity begets more austerity. Boehner’s refusal to fund the government without extracting more spending cuts has no factual basis in economics: It’s based purely on ideology. Obama must decide whether or not to capitulate to Boehner’s demands or let the courts resolve the Constitutional crisis. Some have urged the president to invoke emergency powers under the 14th Amendment and fund the government.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.