Was this the “Tea Party Downgrade”?

Sen. John Kerry and Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod made some waves over the weekend by “calling S&P’s action ‘essentially a tea party downgrade'” and saying “‘I believe this is without question the tea party downgrade. ‘This is the tea party downgrade because a minority of people in the House of Representatives countered even the will of many Republicans in the United States Senate who were prepared to do a bigger deal.'”

This elicited the predictable response from Republicans who sought to blame the President and Democrats for the downgrade. Who is right?

In my opinion (and hear me out here) it seems undeniable, whatever your political stance on the Tea Party, that the Tea Party and the broader conservative movement caused S&P to downgrade US debt. Here’s why: S&P said that they downgraded the US because

  1. We did not approve a sufficiently large debt-reduction package, and
  2. Political paralysis in Washington makes it unlikely that we will be able to get our long-term debts under control.

The Tea Party/conservatives are certainly to blame for reason #1. President Obama and Speaker Boehner had a deal worked out that would have cut $4 trillion from the debt, meeting S&P’s demands and averting a downgrade. Conservatives/Tea Party-ers in the House torpedoed this deal because it would have raised taxes on the richest Americans. Again, this is undeniable whatever your political leanings. If you think its always unjustified to get rid of tax breaks for the rich, then you should be (and probably are) glad that the Tea Party and conservatives stopped Obama and Boehner from solving our debt. But failure to reach a big deal probably was sufficient to cause a downgrade.

Reason #2 stems from reason #1. Of course partisan paralysis has been around since before  the Tea Party showed up, but it has gotten much worse in the past few months. As S&P noted, using the threat of default as a bargaining chip has never been done before, and rarely in history would conservatives rise up in fury against a deal that cut $4 for every $1 it raised in taxes. Conservative stalwarts such as Presidents Reagan and Bush I signed onto plans more liberal than that, but now conservatives refuse to pass a plan that even raises a dollar in revenues. The Tea Party is certainly to blame for this rightward lurch in the Republican Party and the paralysis that has resulted from this lurch. Again, that’s really undeniable no matter what your political affiliation is.

So sit back and take pride in your accomplishment, Tea Party. Your actions directly caused the US debt to be downgraded. Your refusal to accept any compromise has made our political system, which is based on compromise, almost completely unworkable.

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