Since the Tea Party takeover of the GOP in 2010, the nation has been in a constant state of turmoil. Inaction, coupled with stubbornness has taken the country from one crisis to the next, with the American people and world financial markets being strangled in the process.
What remains obscured in the epitome of GOP hostage negotiations is what do these people really want?
In both 2010 and 2012, Republican candidates ran on platforms of job creation and fiscal responsibility. But candidates elected have accomplished neither.
“Something has gone terribly wrong when the biggest threat to our American economy is the American Congress,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) said on the Senate floor, amid the continuing failures of fiscal cliff negotiations.
At the heart of the Tea Party ideology are rigid, core beliefs. On the social side, Tea Party Republicans believe the government should have the power to control the outcome of pregnancies, whether through access to birth control or abortion rights.
Tea Party economic goals are somewhat tied to their social agenda through the fundamental role of government. In a perfect Tea Party-world, the social safety net support system is removed, along with virtually all government regulations and taxes for upper income groups. In essence, the only role Tea Party Republicans believe the government should play is in regulating individual personal behavior to conform to a specific, religious moral code.
Economically, much of what the Tea Party seeks, fits the model of the American Gilded Age.
The “American Experience” on PBS describes the era in a historical perspective:
During the "Gilded Age," every man was a potential Andrew Carnegie, and Americans who achieved wealth celebrated it as never before… While the rich wore diamonds, many wore rags.
In 1890, 11 million of the nation's 12 million families earned less than $1,200 per year; of this group, the average annual income was $380, well below the poverty line. Rural Americans and new immigrants crowded into urban areas. Tenements spread across city landscapes, teeming with crime and filth….
Corruption extended to the highest levels of government. ..
Europeans were aghast. America may have had money and factories, they felt, but it lacked sophistication.
The policies of the Gilded Age brought America to the “roaring” 1920s, when income inequality had widened dramatically. But the Republican Party’s laissez-faire approach to capitalism was unsustainable. Corruption and lack of government regulation led to the Oct. 29, 1929, crash of the US stock market. The event marked the beginning of the global economic collapse dubbed the Great Depression.
The modern-day Republican Party has been whittling-away at the financial rules and regulations enacted during the Great Depression, which were designed to prevent such an event from ever occurring again.
In 1999, pro-business Republicans succeeded in undoing one of the most important parts of the Great Depression safeguards with the repeal of a critical part of the Banking Act of 1933, commonly known as Glass-Steagall. Nine years later, the US financial markets imploded, setting off the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression. If not for the 2008 taxpayer-funded bailout program (TARP), many believe the Wall Street debacle, centered around mortgage securities fraud, would have resulted in a second worldwide depression.
By the end of 2012, neither the US nor foreign economies have fully recovered from what Wall Street bankers caused in their unbridled quest for profits. Despite the losses average Americans took in their devalued or foreclosed homes, the bankers rebounded with record profits.
Based on the type of budget cuts ultra-conservatives have suggested, what Tea Party Republicans really want is to return to the economic policies of the Gilded Age and the Roaring '20s. Those were the days before Social Security and Medicare. There were no food stamps or housing assistance programs back then. People were left to their own methods to find ways to pay for a college education. Food inspections, workplace safety, and pollution in the air and water did not have to meet government regulated standards. It was a time when business ran the country with a free hand. The rich paid little in taxes, leaving the burden of funding the basic functions of government to the working-class. This is what the Tea Party Republicans want in the 21st century, and they are willing to destroy the social and economic structure of United States in order to get it.
Over the next three months, the Tea Party-controlled Republican congress will have a chance to achieve their goals. The debt ceiling limit will have to be raised or America will default on its debts. Sequestered budget cuts will have to be funded or recession is virtually certain. And congress will have to support spending measures to avoid a government shutdown. At any of these turns, Republicans can try to force America back in time to the policies of the Gilded Age and Roaring '20s.
What the public may be missing is the catastrophic results of Tea Party success. Deep spending cuts mean job losses for government employees and the local economies they support. Less money for Social Security recipients means less money in the economy, and more job cuts. Sudden and deep cuts to health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid means less money in the pockets of doctors and hospitals, and more job losses.
There are ways to reduce the deficit that are not likely to cause another recession. But that can only be considered if recession is not another goal of the Tea Party. Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell may have failed in his mission to make Barack Obama a one-term president. But that doesn’t mean that his new goal is not to sabotage his second term, at the expense of the nation. History repeating itself does not have to come from the distant past.
There is little doubt that Republicans have rejected the results of the 2012 elections, because they are driving legislation in the opposite direction of the message voters sent. America is more liberal on a wide range of issues than Tea Party Republicans want, which is why their regressive agenda is such a hard sell. They may have a majority of seats in the House, but their ideas do not garner the support of a majority of the American people.