Whether or not the US Congress came up with a deal to avoid default really doesn’t matter. The issue is a symptom, not the disease itself. The disease is the ideological purity embodied by the Tea Party. Yes, they have some worthwhile ideas and I do think the government should have to pay for the programs it enacts. However, the Tea Party solution of gutting government programs and getting rid of taxes would leave a shell of a country ill-suited to address the challenges of the 21st Century.
Let me go back just a bit here. Since the second world war the US has raised the debt ceiling more than 100 times. However, this time around it became a debate that threatened the economic foundation of the United States. It often helps to get a little objectivity by asking someone outside the situation to take a look and give their viewpoint. Well, how about we turn to our closest friends, the Brits and see what they have to say: “We now have a group of US politicians seeking political purity, who seem to have much in common with the Taliban. They are Tea Party members; and because of blind adherence to smaller government, they seem intent on risking destroying what American political leaders have constructed in more than two centuries of hard, often painful work.”
Now, I understand that the Taliban comparison is probably the new equivalent of Godwin’s Law but there is something to take away from this. When you consider political movements that require ideological purity from their adherents you don’t end up with a list of the most open-minded people on the planet. In fact, the first two that jump to mind are the Taliban and the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia. That’s not exactly good company.
The Conservative movement in the US under the guise of libertarianism (which it isn’t) or other -isms has begun to embrace more and more of these whacko ideas. A recent exchange on Fox News about volcanoes on the moon involving Bill Nye (yes, the science guy) should help put this in perspective. Watch his face when the global warming question is posed.
Like I said at the beginning, the debt ceiling and the default argument aren’t so important in themselves. What matters much more is the underlying disease from which the tumor grows. Let’s just hope that when 2012 rolls around the Tea Party will have served its purpose and the voters will see fit to relegate them to a historical footnote.