Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Turning Against the Tea Party

Wishful thinking perhaps, but the tide of madness that has washed over Washington may be ebbing.

A new CNN poll shows even more Americans want tax increases for the wealthy (63 percent) than major cuts in domestic spending (57 percent), leaving Republicans with the highest unfavorable ratings since the Clinton impeachment 13 years ago and Democrats gaining slightly in approval.

Such fallout from the debt-ceiling debacle suggests that voters have finally seen the Tea Party’s true agenda, not of reforming government but destroying it, and started to recoil from the sight.

Whether or not such sentiment is translated to the halls of Congress depends on two GOP leaders, John Boehner and Mitchell McConnell, who have painted themselves into a Tea Party corner and need a rationale for working themselves out of it.

In a column, Thomas Friedman weaves a fantasy about a White House meeting to do just that.

In it, Boehner announces that “our legislators are ready to reopen negotiations immediately on a ‘Grand Bargain’...and that everything will be on the table from our side--including tax reform that closes loopholes and eliminates wasteful subsidies, and, if need be, tax increases. To those who voted for us, rest assured that we will bring our conservative values to these negotiations and an emphasis on markets and meritocracies...

“To my Tea Party colleagues, I say: thank you. Your passion helped spur the nation to action, but the country cannot be governed, and our future secured, by bowing solely to the passions of any single group--liberal or conservative...Tea Party activists are true patriots and they will work with us as well. President Obama: Let’s fix the country together and then compete in 2012 over who can best manage a growing pie rather than a shrinking one.”

In Friedman’s daydream, the President responds by proposing a “National Commission for American Renewal,” for which “Everything will be on the table --spending cuts, tax reform and increases, a framework for restructuring the debts of Americans whose homes are under water and the investments we need to renew the primary sources of our strength — infrastructure, education and scientific research. Each component will be integrated and timed to minimize pain and maximize job creation...

“But the most important thing that will be on the table will not just be a plan to make our country solvent. It will be a plan to make America great and guarantee that another generation will enjoy the American dream.”

Friedman’s fantasy may seem unlikely in these days of national nightmare, but with both parties facing the rising wrath of the American people, their leaders have much more to gain than lose by trying to live it out.

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