Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Stepping Back from the Precipice, A Recipe for the Tea Party

Anyone who was surprised by the shakiness of the deal to end the government shutdown/slimdown as well as an extension of the debt ceiling is the sort of person who would be a good mark to buy the Brooklyn Bridge. As we stood on the edge of a precipice of unknown depth and impact on the national and global economies, more rational heads seem poised to prevail over the petulant, petty, mean-spirited Tea Party members and a House leadership that is a leadership in name only by refusing to stand up to the obstructionist, ill-conceived ideology of the Tea Party.

As I write this, the Senate and House are yet to vote on a proposal worked out earlier today by the Senate majority and minority leaders. There’s still an opportunity for mischief and mayhem to re-enter the arena.  Let’s assume the best, however.

Let’s also assume, and this assumption might be too hard for some to swallow, that Tea Partyers truly believe they were acting in the best interest of the country. It’s hard to argue with the concept that government has grown too large, that cuts should be made. The real argument is over which appropriations are cut-worthy.

Here’s an idea I’d like to float—Tea Party members, in Congress and those who elected them to office, should be required to live without many of the discretionary services the federal government provides. For example, since they claim Obamacare will destroy our country, they should not be eligible for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. And while I don’t question their patriotism, I’d cut off their access to Veterans Affairs hospitals and other VA programs.

They’re also interested in cutting back on Medicare and Medicaid. I say they shouldn’t be permitted to enroll in either program. Don’t provide them Social Security, either. Nor unemployment or disability insurance payments. Those entitlement programs are just part of the “taker” society Mitt Romney and the Tea Party bemoan. 

I wouldn’t let them drive on federal interstate highways, unless they paid a use tax. We could issue them special license plates so we could monitor their time on the road.

Based on the intelligence they’ve shown so far, I guess there’s no interest by them in Pell Grants for their children’s education. They shouldn’t be able to enroll their pre-schoolers in Head Start programs, nor should their children be eligible for any federally funded school meals (it pains me to hurt children, but it might be the only way their parents have any empathy for the less fortunate in our society). They also should have to pay special use fees to enter national parks and the Smithsonian. 

They don’t think their stunt to shutter the government and stymie extension of the debt ceiling had any negative effect on the economy, so I’d take away FDIC insurance coverage on their bank accounts. And since they seem to be a self-reliant bunch, I’d deny them any FEMA relief from natural disasters. 

I’m sure there are other discretionary parts of the federal budget I could suggest withholding from them. But you get the idea. Let’s impose these restrictions immediately and see how they work through the time of the compromise worked out by the Senate, that is, either the January 15 funding of the government or the February 7 deadline for the  next vote on raising the debt ceiling limit. Maybe by then the Tea Party will realize there are lots of good programs worth funding.

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