The Seduction of the Tea Partiers

Will the rhetoric of the House Republicans’ Pledge to America win over Tea Party members?

Comments: 125

  1. I still believe in the "starve the beast" concept. The statists will never accept dilution of power, otherwise. It isn't enough to gradually shrink government. Government needs to be cut back to only the strictest interpretation of Constitutionally madated services and obligations. Not one thing more.

  2. ..."The Tea Party is a grass-roots movement — wild, woolly and chaotic — which sometimes makes it hard to figure out exactly what it stands for..."

    And, if you care to be honest Mr. Douthat, you will admit that the Tea Party is not really a grass roots movement--it is more an astroturf phenomenon. Bought and paid for by Republican right wing PACS--particularly Freedom Works and Americans for Prosperity. What a buncha obsfucation you and other Republicans must engage in to disguise the craziness and big money behind this group. Please stop!

    Many of us would welcome your truth, as opposed to your "truthiness!"

  3. Conservatives and Republicans learned to betray their principle for power a long time ago. However, if they were serious:

    1/ Raise retirement age by 6 months per year for the next 10 years. This would hugely reduce the expenses for Medicare, Social Security and public and private pensions.

    2/ Cut the Defense budget. Preserve the force structure ( the bit that fights). Slash intelligence and R+D. Military intelligence has always been bad, regardless of how much is spent. They still can't find Bin Laden. Meanwhile, R+D is simply developing new weapons systems that cost four times as much as the perfectly adequate ones we already have. We are in an arms race with ourselves.

    3/ End all Agricultural subsidies and abolish the Ag Department. Farmers have never had it better. If they can't make it without subsidies right now, they should find another line of work.

    4/ Drill ANWR. The royalties on $800 billion worth of oil will pay a lot of bills.

    5/ Make Government employee unions illegal. The unemployed could bid for any Government job. If they were qualified and were willing to work for a substantially lower wage than the existing employee, then they would be hired and the existing employee terminated. This would ensure that Government pay stayed in line with the labor market.

  4. The Republicans need the tea party partisans, but the rest of us need sanity and people with real plans for action, not a "pledge" or a witches' brew of nonsense such as 14th amendment reinforcement, repeal of civil rights along a wish list that sounds more at place in 1610, not 2010. The next two years will probably lead to stalemate in the Congress if we are lucky, and a repeat of 95-96 where GOP blustering and tomfoolery led to the President being re-elected and the checking of many of the more foolish objectives of the Newties.

  5. The Republicans consistently campaign against "Big Government," but if you look at government employment at the federal level, since Reagan, it is almost always higher when the Republicans are in office.
    You also mention the Ryan plan, which calls for privatizing a percentage of social security and eliminating medicare by 2020. This plan has very few co-sponsors because the republicans know if they were to run behind this plan they would be destroyed in the upcoming elections.
    The democrats need to emphasize the fact that the only way to achieve the Republican "Pledge" of reduced taxes and reduced spending is to eliminate or curtail defense, social security, and medicare spending. Ryan being a good republican omits any cust in defense spending.
    The only thing that amazes me is that the American public still beleives the Republicans are the Party of small government.

  6. "the only way to really bring the budget into balance is to reform (i.e., cut) Medicare and Social Security" . . . uh, what about the 60 or so percent of the federal budget that goes to waging war? Just asking.

  7. Ugh.

  8. The only spending cuts that any but the most thoughtful and well-informed voters actually want are theoretical cuts to programs that only affect other people. The whole "cut spending" aspect of the so-called "Pledge to America" document and the Tea Party in general is a mirage.

  9. Or, it may be that a number of Tea Partiers haven't figured out that what they're demanding is to lose their own Social Security and Medicare benefits…

  10. It is getting boring to hear one more conservative talk about cuts to Social Security and Medicare (which, of course, need to seriously address waste and fraud), without a word about the profligate, wasteful and absurd military budget. Please.

  11. Oh Wow. "And as everybody knows, the only way to really bring the budget into balance is to reform (i.e., cut) Medicare and Social Security, a topic that nobody in Congress — save the indefatigable Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan — is particularly eager to touch."

    I don't "know" any such thing. I believe that we cannot engage in endless wars and support a bloated defense industry without crippling our social network, returning the US to the McKinley era, and making Social Darwinism a matter of public policy.

  12. “PLEDGE TO AMERICA,” is;

    Reminiscent of his evil twin Newt Gingrich 1994 “Contract for America,” that was really “Contract on America!” It seems somehow that although the belief about reincarnation for which I do not ascribe, is that when a person dies, he or she is reincarnated in the birth of another person, however, Congressman John Boehner and former Congressman Newt Gingrich may have proven that idea quite wrong.

    Save that of Boehner’s unfortunate error in the “Tanning Booth” that made him the “Orange Dude,” and Newt Gingrich’s concupiscible for the Republican Nomination for the Presidency in 2012, and his duplicitous colloquial colloquiums, it seems self-evident that Boehner and Gingrich are indivisible, when it comes to conning the American people.

    America’s economic ongoing crisis did not begin with President Obama and are well on the way to being rectified by Mr. Obama, but only if the American people allow him the necessary time to complete what he initiated, and that is, “digging” us out of the “abyss” that the George Bush Administration and the cronies like John Boehner and Newt Gingrich tossed us into.

  13. Under normal circumstances, balancing the budget would make a lot of sense. However, now is not the time.

    i.e. I may believe in water conservation, but when my neighborhood is ablaze, I want firemen to liberally apply water to put out the flames. After all, what is the point of conserving water if I have nowhere to live?

  14. My goodness you've been seduced or are just simply irrational.

    "The Tea Party is a grass-roots movement" sponsored by corporate overlords. Who are you kidding? The Koch brothers are spending millions upon millions on this election.

    " But on the evidence of last week’s pledge, a little more extremism in the defense of fiscal responsibility is exactly what the Republican Party needs." There is not one mention in the Republican manifesto of those things that could reduce spending only wasteful spending recommendations on "missile defense", larger military spending and more tax cuts for the wealthy. How does that add up to fiscal responsiblity?

  15. I 'Pledge" to fight against any candidate who let it slip through their lips they're even thinking about - let alone try to cut, dismantle, privatise - whatever! - Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, Veterans Medical benefits.

    I will form a posse and run them out of the country. How unAnerican can these Corporate led Republican Tea Partiers be. Shameful.

  16. What exactly are "self-appointed elites?" The reason I ask is because I was recently called an "economic elitist" by a Republican friend who is enamored with the Tea Party. I was given that label simply for telling her when she was raging against Obama's spending that Ronald Reagan just about tripled the national debt. It made me laugh because, if anything, I'd characterize myself as an economic illiterate, and by just spouting off one inconvenient fact, I became an "economic elite." So, what exactly is a "self-appointed elite?"

  17. I hardly know where to start. Perhaps here: Are government spending cuts really the best policy at this time in this recession? Why are tea party members eager to cut government spending for social programs but not for two unnecessary wars? What about the implicit and explicit racism of various tea party spokesmen and supporters? Why are various tea party members eager to apply libertarian principles to the marketplace but not the bedroom? Does Mr. Douthat really want to defend the published comments of Ms. Angle in Nevada or Ms. O'Donnell in Delaware among others?

    I am not seduced.

  18. The idea that the "only" fiscal solution is to cut Medicare and Social Security is simply untrue, and has been shown to be untrue repeatedly, and extensively. Social Security needs slight changes (like increasing the amount of income subject to the tax - which depending on how its down, could even allow the tax rate to come down) to be made safe for the duration. Medicare and Medicaid are bigger issues, but health reforms that the progressives and others have been calling for could resolve that as well. Which leaves? Defense spending - a rational, honest look at our defense needs is long, long overdue. Actually, I'd like to see the Democrats offer something very simple - the conservatives can pay for Reagan's 600 ship navy and Bush's wars, and the rest can take on the common needs of job creation, health care, education and so forth. That the ideas of Reagan and the Bushes are unpaid for puts the lie to all Republican claims of fiscal responsibility.

  19. Truly now: of course the Republicans are co-opting the tea party's message, as impractical as much of it is. But what's their choice? They don't have anything to offer or we would be hearing the specifics that everybody in office - Dem and Rep - seem to have such a difficult time figuring out. Bottom line is they don't want to tell us the truth or make hard decisions because their only goal is TO REMAIN IN OFFICE. No wonder Americans are swept away with anything that says "throw them all out." How could it get any worse with Pence, Boehner, Reid, and Pelosi speaking for us? And then there's Palin, Huckabee, Rangel, and Frank. Instead of anger, we should be laughing hysterically at these fools and embarrass them all to leave....flee on their own.

  20. I hardly know where to start. Perhaps here: Are government spending cuts really the best policy at this time in this recession? Why are tea party members eager to cut government spending for social programs but not for two unnecessary wars? What about the implicit and explicit racism of various tea party spokesmen and supporters? Why are various tea party members eager to apply libertarian principles to the marketplace but not the bedroom? Does Mr. Douthat really want to defend the published comments of Ms. Angle in Nevada or Ms. O'Donnell in Delaware among others?

    I am not seduced.

  21. Everyone wants limited government until we need the government (Hurricane Katrina comes to mind). Instead of crusading for limited government I would prefer a campaign for effective government. I do not believe that most Americans, even the greedy wealthy, would be so against the tax system if government were more effectual.

    We need to come to terms that at leat 70% of the federal budget is either entitlements or military. We should look carefully at entitlements, and make changes that make sense, and we should curtail military spending by removing all troops from Iraq and eventually from Afghanistan. There is nothing to win in either country. We have not, like much of teh rest of the majot powers, realized a peace dividend from resulting from the end of the cold war.

    The Democracts have not been vocal enough in educating and reminding the American public that is was the Republicans that got into the current economic mess we are in and they have no real plan for getting us out.

    Going back to the past, failed, policies is not a winning strategy for the country and the voters should let the Republicans know this and stop being fooled by rhetoric, racism, and stupid ideas.

    Ron

  22. So many incorrect assumptions, half truths and misstatements of fact.

    First, the Tea Party is only partially a grass roots movement. The largest swath of that green is Astroturf, not real grass. The umbrella of insurrection and teabagger harkening back to founders they barely understand or know much about is perfect cover for the insidious money men who see an opportunity to sneak their agenda in the back door.

    Like the Edward Arnold character in the Capra film Meet John Doe, these plutocrats are busy plotting the demise of the American system, throwing huge checks at unstable and whacko candidates, preparing the country so they can carve it up for their own personal consumption.

    If they can get the screaming sign carriers and haters to carry their own stagnant water, it will be a victory for them and a defeat for the nation.

    Second, Mr.Douthat proclaims the Republican Party the party of small government and fiscal responsibility (he does slip in a tiny reference to the fact that they have not always lived up to these lofty goals, but that was because of 1990s "gridlock". In other words, it wasn't really their fault. Those darned Democrats caused the problem).

    Wrong, wrong, wrong.

    Over the last generation, Republicans have run the show during the largest expansion of government in the history of the country. Reagan, Bush 41, and Bush 43 also ran enormous deficits. Only a Democrat, Bill Clinton, did anything about downsizing the government and balancing the budget, a surplus, you perhaps forget, that was promptly turned into the current wildly out of control deficit by a--wait for it---
    a REPUPLICAN. This perennial lie needs to be taken out and shot once and for all.

    Next, cutting spending in this time of financial free fall. Great idea. Unless you know anything about economy. Mr. Douthat has obviously not been reading the Nobel prize winning economist on the other side of the op-ed pages. According to Professor Krugman, cutting back on spending now will send us down the same road as Ireland and Greece. Not the best outcome.

    Mr. Douthat would rather get his economic instruction from Paul Ryan who has submitted yet another right-wing plan to kill Social Security, but before doing so, he wants to make sure that the Masters of the Universe on Wall Street get their hands on all that money. This is just another back door plan like the one George W. Bush tried, to privatize Social Security. Just imagine had Bush succeeded in plunging the country's Social Security money into Wall Street just before the crash. Farewell to trillions of dollars of retirement money for all Americans. Great idea, there, Mr. Douthat.

    Then there is the "Starve the Beast" plan which Mr. Douthat claims is merely designed to cut spending.

    Wrong again. (Doesn't he ever get tired of this?)

    According to far right Machiavellis like Grover Norquist, the Starve the Beast plan has been created for one reason alone: to kill the government. To make it small enough to drown in a bathtub. Spending cuts, my eye.

    Finally, if the Teabaggers were such a fine, upstanding group, why have they been unable to field any substantial candidates? Those flying the Teabagger flag are without fail wild-eyed, unqualified fanatics extraordinaire who want to dismantle government, practice witchcraft, turn back the clock on women's rights, give everyone guns with orders to shoot to kill, and unleash as much hatred and venom as they can muster. And they have mustered enormous quantities of both.

    The Republicans, cynical as ever, with their updated Contract On America, are desperately trying to make that hatred, anger, and Astroturf funding work in their favor.

    After all, it's so much easier than coming up with real ideas and workable solutions that don't simply pander to the wealthy and the wingnuts.

    As usual, Mr. Douthat, thanks for your suggestions. Better luck next time.

  23. You mention Medicare and Social Security as entitlements that need to be cut Let's look at them. Social Security has a trust fund that contains enough money to pay the beneficiaries in full till some time in the 2040's, which is as far in the future as it's reasonable to look. The fund was built up from the surplus of Social Security taxes over the amount paid to the beneficiaries. This surplus was used to reduce the taxes of the richest taxpayers, while the money was paid mostly by ordinary taxpayers. (Currently only income up to $106,800 is taxed.)

    Now the bill is due, and it has to be paid by somebody; to do otherwise is national bankruptcy. Who should pay it? Surely not the people who created the surplus, by reducing their benefits. The fairest place to get the money is from the people who benefited when the fund had a surplus. It's not possible to tax those very people, but it is reasonable to tax the same kind of people, namely those earning the highest incomes.

    Medicare is an part of health care. Something is plainly wrong with our health care system. The U.S. pays about $4,271 per capita per year, Canada pays about $1,939. U.S. life expectancy is about 78 years; Canadian is about 81 years. It's not reasonable to expect changing from the U.S. system to the Canadian system to give the U.S. a Canadian life expectancy because of Canada's superior life style and climate, but it might help a little. If the U.S. could adopt the Canadian health system (Medicare for all), it could reduce U.S. spending on health care by about
    (4,271-1,939)*300,000,000 = 699,600,000,000
    about $700 billion per year, which could be used to reduce the U.S. Government deficit a little.

    I'm sure you read the columns of your colleague Dr. Krugman. Where do think he is wrong about this?

  24. Dear Ross,

    Reforming social security and medicare sounds an awful lot like default to me, default on the obligations to millions of Americans who have paid into social security and medicare with payroll taxes during the entire working careers with the belief that the government would provide them a financial safety net in return when they became too old to work.

    How is this different from an outright default on holders of US treasuries? Well the major difference is that the US needs to continue borrowing from the bondholders and defaulting on the bonds is a sure way to send future borrowing costs into the stratosphere. So the US pays those who still have the economic power.

    It would be far better to let the Bush tax cuts expire and raise income taxes. I know everybody repeats the conventional wisdom that higher taxes destroy jobs, but I for one don't believe that. For one thing the extra revenues can be used to create government jobs, by direct investment that can get key industries off the ground.

    We did that in the past with NASA, a program that got the US to the moon. That was an example of state capitalism, the space industry was a government enterprise, yet it spun off technological advances that helped the US become an economic leader in many industries.

    Now it is China that is developing the huge new initiatives in new technologies. Tom Friedman calls them four moon-shot programs in his recent program. For example, the world is running out of cheap oil. The Chinese response: Build high-speed electrified rail to connect Beijing to Shanghai to Hong Kong and dozens of other cities. Just as the TGV is faster than plane travel from London to Paris, these high speed trains will make travel between major Chinese cities convenient and fast.

    Higher taxes and higher government spending on high speed rail is a recipe that would work for the US. Too bad it isn't being discussed more seriously.

  25. Ross,

    As a die-hard liberal I can't believe how much I completely agreed with pretty much everything you said in this column. Here's the problem though - the Republicans have spent so many years fooling the public into thinking we can get all the services we've grown accustomed to without paying for them, that they (the Republicans) are TERRIFIED to ever spell out what those spending cuts will mean. Despite holding up Paul Ryan as a poster boy for honest fiscal responsibility (and at least he has the guts to say what will need to be done to address our deficit if we're going to cut taxes), the idea of cutting Social Security or Medicare is incredibly unpopular - even among most tea-partiers if I read the in-depth polls correctly.

    It was the Republicans that whipped up all that town hall frenzy with the fear of cuts to Medicare (remember the "keep the government out of my Medicare" crowd). Now they can't turn around and say that those (and other) programs will need to be cut.

    Remember, Americans are the ones who buy into every new gimmick that promises to help us lose weight without ever exercising or eating less. Should it be so surprising that we're going to continue to get fooled by every new promise of major tax cuts (along with some cosmetic, meaningless spending cuts) that will magically allow us to keep all our benefits and security nets.

    The Republicans continue to sell nothing but snake oil. They are the party of magical thinking - but we'll keep buying what they're selling because the reality (painful tax cuts along with spending and benefit cuts) is just not what Americans want to hear.

    Leslie

  26. Fairly objective column (for Duithat). The Times editorial makes, of course, much more sense. My thesis that people get elected just by screaming 'give us our country back' (the summary of the 'pledge') without bothering with ANY details is still completely valid.

    Perhaps the 'pledge' is so lengthy to help people to miss a few important points - NO Social Security, Medicare or Pentagon cuts. What is left is virtually negligible for any meaningful deficit reducing cuts.

    Duithat mentions few Republicans who, according to him, acknowledge the need for cuts in the first two areas - Pentagon is, of course, completely sacrosant even to them. I do not recall they ever said that explicitly - their electability would have evaporated very quickly.

    Even Republicans used to scream 'do not touch MY Medicare' and, believe me, they mean it.

    We have, of course, the Great Misunderstanding. The Social Security (and Medicare?) contributions that were excessive for a decade or so were supposed to be kept in a 'lockbox'. Obviously, they were not - the money was spent on, for instance, on two nonsensical wars.

    So, Krugman, upon assumption of the existence of the mythical 'lockbox' tells us - nothing to worry about Social Security. The 'reality' folks (and Duithat may be one of them) know that there is no such thing as a 'lockbox'. The only way to pay for Social Security and Medicare for retiring boomers is to increase the deficit - as, in effect, the House Republicans do in their 'pledge'.

    Bit too complicated for the common folks. The President is supposed to deliver instantly and if he does not, let's sabotage his agenda and create a complete governmental gridlock. Obama, obviously, will veto most of the Republican nonsense like repeal of the health reform law.

    Of course, there is a distant possibility that Republicans will achieve veto-proof majorities in both houses. God help us then. After two years, however, people may wake up from their world of dreams induced by the Tea Party and the Republicans and correct their 2010 mistakes.

    That has been the American tradition for centuries.

  27. The Republicans and Tea Partiers invoke Declaration of Independence and pledge “to honor the Constitution as constructed by its framers.” without understanding either or knowing how to apply them to the present day America, global economy, and modern technologies.

    The world has changed drastically since 1776 and our Constitution has been amended umpteen times. We simply cannot go back to 1776. It is a sheer stupidity to even think of that.

    Regarding less taxes, we have to be prudent and proactive. Some taxes like Bush tax cut for the rich benefited the rich only, but not the rest of us. It did not create new jobs and it put the country deeper in debt. It was an irresponsible act. Also, reducing the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits will seriously hurt many Americans and it will not solve our economic problems.

    I do not think that those who want to cut taxes especially for the rich have any positive solution for reducing our deficit or improving our economy or creating new jobs or building our infrastructure.

    Finally, I think that their Pledge to America which is the 2010 version of the Contract with America is a smoke screen for their anger and disdain for President Obama. They simply cannot accept an Africa American as our president and that’s why they say ‘No’ to him all the time.


  28. The real problem here is the majority of the population does not understand (perhaps more accurately does not want to understand) the numbers.

    Senior folks dependent on medicare do not want any significant medicare cuts. Does not matter if they are philosophically against the deficit and spending and taxes. One way they get around this dilemma, where they want the spending but not the deficit or taxes, is to argue that medicare is not the problem but illegal immigration, or welfare, or earmarks or some other relatively minor area of spending is the problem. Most tea partiers seem to be of this ilk, and so the tea party movement is not going to help fix anything -- they are just a distraction diverting energy away from the real issue.

    The approach Obama is taking where medical costs are brought down and taxes on the rich are raised seems the most reasonable. Will be great if there is a movement with similar energy advocating this approach ...


  29. Please cease with the tired (and false) rhetoric about Social Security and Medicare being the source of the nation's deficit woes. Whenever the faux come-lately deficit hawks pop their heads out of their hind-ends, they always seek to ostensibly "balance" their budget on the backs of those with the least power (and money) to fight back.

    Social Security has nothing to do with the national deficit. In fact it is one of the few items in our dysfunctional government that actually works like it is supposed to. Do your research and talk to credible economists instead of right-wing neocon Randian ideologues.

    If you really want to know where the drunken sailor spending occurs, try reading the Congressional Record and the appropriations bills — and take particular note of the sacrosanct Pentagon budget. President Eisenhower warned us decades ago that the military-industrial complex would become out-of-control and would be our undoing. That prophecy has been fulfilled as neocon warmongers abound and endless wars of choice are the norm. Military generals now believe that THEY are in charge of the military instead of the constitutionally mandated civilian control.

    Combined with neocon notions of the now debunked Reaganomics and its trickle-down theory of deregulation and tax breaks for the obscenely wealthy, our nation has been brought to its economic knees. The destruction of manufacturing and attempts to destroy labor unions, the outsourcing of jobs overseas by favored corporatists, has all contributed to the destruction of the middle class.

    Self-serving politicians, greedy corporatists and a plethora of ignorant pundits, won't be content until they have finished off every social safety net that protects the growing numbers of 'have nots' from the minority of 'have it alls'. The cannibalism of unbridled capitalism will have won, and we will end up a third world country of primarily impoverished citizens living amid a decimated infrastructure, while the minority robber barons live in privileged gated communities for their own protection.

    It is no accident that these extreme neocon right-wingers are promoting fear, suspicion and xenophobia, as a means to regain complete control of government by persuading the already struggling 'masses' to vote against their own best interests out of fear. They even pit voters against each other by blaming the victims of this economic nonsense. To discover the real agenda, one need look no farther than the source of the money in this election cycle (Koch, Murdock, Rove, et al). Right-wing corporatists have a true 'bait and switch' being readied for the unwary voter, including those deluded individuals in the Tea Party who are a mere means to the corporatist ends. Buyer beware — you aren't really in control of the final sale.

  30. Mr. Douthat blandly asserts that "as everybody knows, the only way to really bring the budget into balance is to reform (i.e., cut) Medicare and Social Security." He offers no evidence for his "everybody knows" assertion. Nor could he because it is not true. A little research on his part would reveal the following:

    1. Sensible economists (i.e., those guided by data and not ideology or partisanship) argue persuasively that Social Security presents no immediate budget problem. This is what those economists say: If a Social Security-funding problem does arise in a couple of decades, as currently forecast, that problem could be solved in a variety of ways, only one of which would be cutting benefits. Another, more popular way, according to polls, would be to modestly raise the Social Security tax while keeping current benefits intact. Raising the limit on the amount of income subject to the Social Security tax would be another solution, or at least a partial solution.

    Lumping Social Security with Medicare, whose rising cost is a symptom of the real financial problem the nation faces, is a familiar tactic of libertarian, conservative, and Republican forces and their well-off think-tank agents. These forces have opposed Social Security and Medicare since the programs' beginnings. Unsuccessful so far in eradicating them, they are now using the nation's overall budget problem to attempt to at least roll them back.

    2. Sensible economists persuasively point out that the data demonstrate that Medicare's rising cost is not a Medicare problem but a reflection of the actual problem facing the nation, which is increasing health-care costs that continue to far exceed the economy's growth. As the eminent health economist Uwe Reinhardt noted in an Economix column for this newspaper on September 24, the cost of health care as a percentage of GDP has more than doubled, in real terms, since the late 1970s to 17 percent last year and is forecast to rise to nearly 20 percent in the next decade. Most other wealthy nations, he noted, spend around 10 percent or less of their GDP for health care.

    So (drastically) cutting Medicare, as Mr. Douthat says "everybody knows" must be done, might solve the federal budget problem. But that wouldn't solve the nation's problem, which is uncontrolled rises in health-care costs. Cutting Medicare costs would merely shift those rising health-care costs onto seniors in the form of higher co-payments and premiums – and/or onto everyone else. Medicare might not go broke, but citizens would.

    Thus, as sensible economists have long pointed out, the nation's budget problem is largely a problem of health-care costs that are rising faster than the economy grows. Solve that problem, as every other advanced-economy nation has done, and we solve the budget problem.

    So Mr. Douthat's "everybody knows" is merely a polemical device, disinformation that undermines serious discussion.

  31. “And as everybody knows, the only way to really bring the budget into balance is to reform (i.e., cut) Medicare and Social Security, a topic that nobody in Congress — save the indefatigable Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan — is particularly eager to touch.”

    The premise that everybody agrees on how to balance the budget is nonsense. Social Security is not going bankrupt. It has a separate stream of financing. We’ve been paying more than is needed, and according to the CBO, it can pay all scheduled benefits through 2039 with no changes whatsoever. The program will be able to pay 78% of benefits after 2039, and with relatively minor changes it will remain solvent. The Social Security Trust Fund has a $2.5 trillion surplus; it’s projected to be more than $4 trillion in 2023. The CBO says that if the payroll tax was applied to all income, it would be solvent for the next 75 years.

    Medicare and Medicaid are not out of control; it’s our healthcare costs that are out of control. We pay twice as much per person as other industrialized countries and have worse health outcomes. If our costs were in line with other countries, we would have enormous budget surpluses rather than deficits. The problem lies with the insurance industry (over 31% of every dollar goes to overhead and profit) and the pharmaceutical companies (we pay 2-3 times the price for the same exact drug sold in Canada or in Europe). A universal health care system would cut our bureaucratic burden in half and save over $300 billion annually.

    Paul Ryan (the “GOP Idea Man”) has proposed tax cuts for the wealthy of historic proportions (including eliminating capital gains, corporate, and estate taxes), increasing middle class taxes, and adding a regressive consumption tax. The plan is so draconian, that many in the GOP are afraid to openly endorse it. It would privatize and cut Social Security, end guaranteed Medicare and cut benefits, erode Medicaid, end CHIP, and eliminate the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance. And it calls for less money for Pell Grants, local schools, NIH research, and the FBI. As a result of tax cuts for the wealthy, the debt would continue to "grow" until at least 2050.

    “The plan would shift tax burdens so substantially from the wealthy to the middle class that people with incomes over $1 million would face much lower effective tax rates than middle-income families would. All in all, the Ryan Roadmap charts a radical course that, if they understood it, few Americans likely would want to follow.”
    http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3114

    Thirty years of supply-side economics did not unleash investment to create economic growth and job creation. It didn’t deliver. We could eliminate the deficit by increasing taxes on the top earners, establishing a modest tax on speculative Wall Street trading, and cutting back in the Pentagon. The defense budget is half as much as all other countries combined. Out of control spending on outdated weapons, an excess of military bases, and useless wars doesn't increase our security, it only destroys our economy.

  32. The republican party elites, as any child can see, are ecstatic that the economy is in the fix it's in -- their long-term plan is unfolding as it should.

    How better to bring about the dismemberment of the federal government than to help explode the deficit with tax cuts and the outrageous transfer of our national treasure to the Big Industry and the Military Industrial Complex? Bring the new government to it's economic knees and blame the new government for it.

    By feeding false information, fear-filled messages of doom, and outright sensational lies, to a mass of easily provoked, purposefully ill-informed citizenry, we suddenly have your artificial 'grass roots movement' with no legitimate raison d'être -- those who will instantly fall in line to blame the president and 'the system' or any other directed target.

    A conservative pundit might write that, "to bring about a true, conservative, fiscally responsible, and old fashioned family values-oriented society, the ends may justify the means' -- but do you honestly think that, once the GOP leadership gets their way, they can somehow muster the leadership, the well-designed plan, and the actual intellectual capacity to deliver us all to this 'conservative paradise' that will "solve all of America's problems"?

    In my woods Mr. Douthat, it's quite easy for me to stir up a bee's nest, make them angry, then hurl it a someone. The bees will swarm to attack the first living creature they see, even though I'm the guilty one. Not a very nice thing to do -- it's deceitful, underhanded, and cowardly -- but there you have today's Murdoch-Gingrich-Rove Republican modus operandi in all it's country-wrecking glory.

    While the president has labored admirably (and demonstrably so) to rectify the terrible damage from the last administration's financial negligence, your easily-aimed, artificial 'grass roots movement' wants nothing less than to sting him to death.

    But watch out -- sometimes that swarm may turn right back on you.

  33. Medicare, not Social Security, is the big problem. The answer is not to cut benefits, it's to cut the obscene profits of PHRMA and the Health Insurance industry. First, let Medicare bargain drug prices. Second, trust-bust the Health Care Industry. When they were given an exemption nobody dreamed of the current insurance disaster. Third, raise the standard for drug approval. There are far too many very expensive drugs of marginal effect. There should be standards for reporting effectiveness and limits on "off label" usage. Patients and doctors are driven by the need to "do something", and the need for hope, in an industry driven by the profit motive. Where are the checks and balances?

    It is short sighted to kowtow to the Health Care Industry by limiting regulation. It has led to unaffordable health care that has made US industry less profitable and bankrupted enormous numbers of citizens (and caused horrible misery). The new Healthcare fix without tougher regulation and price controls won't work if the government ends up slashing benefits to avoid going broke. It's better to have a more competitive industry that has to work harder to be profitable than a lot of dead people and political instability.

    Also, it's the right thing to do. Campaign donations produce propaganda ads, people suffer and people vote.

  34. Cut my social security and then Medicare will be moot because I won't be able to afford the co-pays. The age of retirement can't be raised without tremendous hardship unless jobs for older adults are protected from descrimination and there is provision for those who are no longer physically able to perform their jobs. We can't just throw on those who performed hard physical work for us on the garbage heap because they can no longer do that work. We need bricklayers, roofers, carpenters, and all the others who build and maintain our infrasructure. Healthcare workers and childcare workers and others who work on their feet all day can also have difficulty as they age. We need to respect the dignity of work that taxes the body. Those in their 50's and 60's who don't do physical work are finding the doors to employment are closed to them through age discrimination. The idea that we can somehow abandon seniors to their fate and they will survive on a straightened Social Security and what's left of their 401k's is pure fantasy. It was their stock brokers and planners, and bankers who benefitted the most from their savings efforts. If they have suffered long periods of being out of work their savings are gone.

    To say that people are living too long now and we need to cut our losses by failing to maintain them, is incredibly callous and unworthy of us as a nation. Other countries provide by taxing their citizenry appropriately and so should we.

  35. "The Tea Partiers have a point. Officially, the Republican Party stands for low taxes and limited government. But save during the gridlocked 1990s, Republican majorities and Republican presidents have tended to pass tax cuts while putting off spending cuts till a tomorrow that never comes.

    Conservatives have justified this failure with two incompatible theories. "One is the “starve the beast” conceit, which holds that cutting taxes will force government spending downward. The other is the happy idea that tax cuts actually increase government revenue, making deficit anxieties irrelevant."

    Don't overlook the third possibility - that it's popular to cut taxes, and reducing revenue leads to growing deficits. When the Democrats are in power, all of a sudden get religion about deficits and try to force them to cut spending, which is not popular.

    With an electorate with a three minute memory and no taste for actually understanding what is going on, fiscal irresponsibility becomes a winning approach for the Republicans.

  36. Not that it would be easy to prove, but I'm pretty sure that the TEA movement is more anti-incumbent than it is pro-Republican. True, Republicans say that they are fiscal conservatives. TEA advocates want evidence, not from some slogan but via results.

    Not having found evidence, Beltway Republicans go all gasbag about how now (after ,and arm-in-arm with Democrats, lobbyists, donors and other hangers-on, consuming the accumulated fortune of the world's most productive nation and borrowing past the hilt) they will roll back spending levels to 2008. Wow! I'm impressed now.

    Many on the left recite the meme 'where were you when Bush (I call him G2B2) was spending like a drunken sailor'? Well, after allowing for some war spending, many of us were right here, on this editorial comments section, pointing out that you cannot spend yourself rich and that you cannot tax or borrow your way to a strong economy.

    All of you in the political elite cannot understand that the taxpayers, voters and citizens of this nation are tired of all-talk-no-action on good days, misdirection on most days and flat out deception way too much of the time.

    If you've not noticed, TEA members accept candidates with (ahem) non-traditional backgrounds so long as they have the habits of consistent positions, clear speech, a penchant for being held accountable and, when available, a voting record.

    Voters are moving away from those who will say they serve and then serve themselves while delivering the Republic to ruin. They are moving toward expecting results. This is not good for incumbents or their donors. But it may be a very good thing for the people.

    Robert Fuller
    Hopewell, NJ

  37. Douthat is sometimes dangerous in his doctrinaire conservatism. He thirsts for the "purity" of cutting social programs like Social Security and Medicare; good point, except that the experience of Europe, Japan, China, and the U.S. for the past century or so has pretty well proved that no private force can meet the needs of a developed society for the nets that provide decent health care and income for many older persons. And that capitalism can only flourish when it recognizes that the market and private initiative are inadequate. In other words, Ross, American economic democracy can survive only if it accepts that government is necessary for providing a secure network that insures a measure of health and well being. That means, to be blunt, that Social Security and Medicare were necessary and cannot be substantially cut. Otherwise our capitalist system will begin to crumble. The same stark necessity for government underwriting of educational opportunity will become plainer to Americans over the next few decades. Thus a welfare state and capitalism can and must co-exist, a la Europe. The Tea Party and Republicans are dead wrong when they oppose this fact.

  38. "Officially, the Republican Party stands for low taxes and limited government. But save during the gridlocked 1990s, Republican majorities and Republican presidents have tended to pass tax cuts while putting off spending cuts till a tomorrow that never comes."

    True Ross but the Tea Partiers are no more responsible than the Republican phonies who trotted out the "Pledge". As you said, many of them are retirees who totally ignore the fact that the cuts they're screaming for would have to include their entitlements. There's the famous quote from one of them during the health care debate "Keep your government hands off my Medicare."

    Paul Ryan is John Kasich redux. Kasich was loudly proclaiming during the 90s that Social Security and Medicare would have to be cut to balance the budget. But gee what happened? We had a surplus a few years later in 2000 which Bush and the irresponsible Republicans proceeded to squander with tax cuts for the rich and unfunded wars and entitlements.

    "Their eccentric elements notwithstanding, the Tea Parties have something vital to offer the country: a vocal, activist constituency for spending cuts at a time when politicians desperately need to have their spines stiffened on the issue. But it’s all too easy to imagine the movement (which, after all, includes a lot of Social Security and Medicare recipients!) being seduced with rhetorical nods to the Constitution, and general promises of spending discipline that never get specific."

    Pie in the sky. Once you start to cut the entitlements, you'll find the Tea Party's enthusiasm for cost cutting well under control. The Reagan mantra that government can't do anything right has become so entrenched that it's propelling us toward becoming a banana republic. A wealthy elite, no middle class, crumbling infrastructure, huge government debt. Our market competitiveness in the world, our education system, our infrastructure are all sliding down the scale relative to the other countries in the world and the Republican "Pledge" will only accelerate it.

  39. The Republican message to America isn't a program -- it's an attempt to co-opt the middle class anger at Washington. The anger is simple to understand -- for the first time in their lives many middle class head of households in their 40s and 50s are unemployed, underemployed and have no prospects of employment making close to what they made before. Their retirements, their child's college education, their cars, and their homes are at risk, and no one in the government appears to have a clue what to do. The bankers got bailed out -- Wall Street is fine. The local, state, and federal employees are working -- also a result of stimulus money. But where are the programs to help the Marketing Directors, Sales VPs, and Operations Managers -- not to mention the other unemployed? The anger is directed at current incumbents, and if the Republicans can tap into that anger they might just sweep to power, only to find they don't have any answers to the problem either. Barack Obama and the Democrats will win big in 2012 running against the Republican Congress -- "let us finish what we started" as the campaign line.

  40. Small Government=Privatization=Corruption! This is the formula that Republicans choose to ignore at their peril. The more that we continue to privatize government functions (especially decision-making), the more that corruption, profiteering, and lack of "transparency" will become insurmountable problems. Government is "of the people, by the people, for the people"! Corporations are not! Just look at BP or Halliburton for montrous tales of corruption, profiteering, zero accountability, and secrecy. In fact, most of the "success" stories of the free market depend on the government providing the necessary infrastructure of roads, airports, educated workers, natural resources, and so on.

    I'm just as appalled by government waste as the next person, but what angers me the most is the build-up of private contractors who bill the taxpayers billions of dollars and pay their CEOs lavish salaries. Remember when the military used to perform all its own support services? I bet it was accomplished at a fraction of the cost that Halliburton charges the taxpayers. So, please hold the rhetoric about small government! Why not advocate for "smart government"?

    We live in a democracy, which means that our government is accountable to us. When we disagree with elected representatives, we have the right to organize against them. We have the freedom to participate in decisions about our lives. We lose those options of exercising our democratic freedoms if the functions of government are privatized and taken over by wealthy individuals, corporations, and "the market." I bet if the populists in the Tea Party really grasped this idea, they would think twice about rallying against government, the embodiment of our freedom and democracy.

  41. Mr. Douthat... as usual you continue to provide Republican talking points that are half-truths at best and myths at worse. Social Security is not part of the deficit nor part of the present financial crisis. It can pay out at 100% until 2036 and can pay out at 75% after 2036 under the most conservative of estimates. A slight increase in FICA down the road will take care of Social Security for the long term. Medicare is a problem because the entire healthcare system is in crisis. We can not continue to pay twice as much per capita as all the industrial nations for our healthcare. Especially for a healthcare system that produces outcomes worse than many of the other industrial nations. Solve the healthcare crisis and you reduce most of the long term deficit crisis. President Obama and the Democrats had a chance to make the changes required to make our healthcare system affordable and still cover everyone and they failed to make this happen. Our defense and intelligence spending is insane with or without our current deficit crisis. We can easily reduce this spending by 50% and still have the largest military in the world. Even at this level one might ask if we really need the worlds largest military. Regardless, the 50% savings could be better used on rebuilding this nation and once again making us competitive with other industrial countries that are moving ahead of us and I'm not talking about China which is a train wreck waiting to happen. Finally, we need to return the marginal tax rate to the prosperous Eisenhower level of 70% until this mess is cleaned up and our country is back on track. It does not do the country a darn bit of good to have 80% of the wealth in this country tied up by 20% of the people in this country. Instead of stealing from the American people by robbing Social Security we need to reinvest that 80% back into the economy that generated the wealth in the first place!

  42. If you ask actual tea party members if they want their Social Security cut or their Medicare cut, the answer will be a rousing "no." In fact, when a Times reporter went to a tea party rally, he found a lot of out-of-work tea partiers who were looking for government jobs without seeing the slightest irony in that.

    Most tea partiers are just average Americans on steroids. They want to have their cake & eat it, too. Low taxes, high services (of the kind they need), aggressive wars. Of course many tea partiers do harbor foolish ideas about limiting the parts of government they think they as individuals won't need: cut regulations (tea partiers can look out for themselves), repeal all the amendments to the Constitution except the second, end public education (tea partiers have already been graduated) & let churches take care of social problems (tea partiers are self-reliant & don't have "social problems").

    And that's pretty much what the Plague on America promises: adding an additional $4 trillion to the deficit over the next ten years (tax breaks) & repealing stuff, causing great uncertainty & upheaval & depriving Americans of many of the protections we have come to expect. It is perhaps the most irresponsible document ever produced by any political party.

    Will it seduce tea partiers? It well may. So far they have not let reason & good judgment get in the way of their emotions.

    The Constant Weader at www.RealityChex.com

  43. "But to the extent that the movement boasts a single animating idea, it’s the conviction that the Republicans as much as the Democrats have been an accessory to the growth of spending and deficits..."

    Nonsense. The single animating idea is bigoted rage that a black man occupies the Oval Office. If "deficits" were really the driving motivation, the tea-baggers would have been out marching the moment W. flushed the Clinton surplus down the toilet with his holy war in Iraq. If deficits were really the issue, they'd challenge the assumption that America's military really needs to spend as much as the rest of the world combined to keep us safe. They would have hounded Cheney out of office for saying, "Reagan proved deficits don't matter. We won the election. This is our due."

    All of this blather about deficits is just a thin veneer designed to make racism respectable. The "Republicans are just as bad as Democrats" line isn't fooling anyone. The inescapable fact is that the tea-baggers will vote Republican and serve ultra-right interests. Proof? If the Republicans win and continue (as they will) wasting taxpayer money on their version of big gov't, you won't hear a peep from the tea-baggers. They will have all gotten tired and gone home.

  44. The long-term deficit is indeed serious but is mostly due to our extremely wasteful health and inefficient care system.

    We do not need to cut benefits or leave millions with no health care. We do need to reduce the political and economic power of the cartels, oligopolies and monopolies that control our health care system, i.e. the insurance companies, medical device manufacturers, big pharma, the hospital corporations, etc.

    Of course there should have been a public option and eventually there will still have to be one. It is very sad that a major party would rather deny care to millions than trim the profit streams of any influential contributors.

  45. Swing and a miss. Sure the original six guys who thought up the tea party revival were libertarian anti tax anti government types, but the bulk up came from t-baggers riled up by the election of a black “liberal” and confrontation with the ideas that they were a) no longer sole owners of the American machinery and siultaneously b) that their comfy lives were probably going to get a little less comfy and worst of all c) that part of them were going to be discomfited in order to facilitate more humane treatment for some one else!

    Most of the tea party ire is selfishness. Not ideology, not intellectual premise, just simple deal with it in your toddler's “MINE!” selfishness. They hate ObamaCare, though many are on a completely government run health care plan, the ones who aren't want to believe that the insurance crisis wasn't affecting them, and danged if they should bother to help those it was hurting. Others still (the anti mandate crowd) are free loaders, furious at losing their free ride. Give old folks hundred dollar vouchers towards thousand dollar bills (Paul Ryan's “road map”), and charge the uninsured cash up front or let them suffer and die (the only real alternative to individual mandates) and see how fast people abandon their infatuation with Jeffersonians.

    The final agonizing truth – We must pay taxes. VP Biden hit it square on the head when he said patriots pay taxes. Our infrastructure is crumbling – remember that snowy bridge dropping into the river? Not just our roads and rails either, we have underfunded everything for decades as Ross notes, consuming our seed corn as the saying goes. Just as the consumer has run out of money and credit, so to we as a nation have run out of reserves in most of our systems. We must rebuild, and we must pay for it. Anything else is a lie.

  46. If I am to believe yesterday's Times editorial on the "Pledge" it offers nothing new.It is largely the same agenda of tax cuts for the rich (on the assumption that the $ will trickle down to somehow boost the economy.The pledge will also cut federal programs such as Education. But cutting these programs will do little to boost the economy or create jobs. n fact, there is virually honest effort to increase jobs. There seems to be little in the T-baggers agenda that will increase employment. The main points in the T-baggers plan that address the recession. All cuts in government programs clearly increases unemploymnet.
    Let's face it, the "new" Republican Pledge is no more than the old plan-the one largely responsible for the current sad state of our recession.The elephant that comes out of the car wash is no different than the one that went in. If the nation's electorate thinks it's anything else, we are in for a continued recession.

  47. Socrates' technique of elenctic disputation, as recorded in Plato's famous dialogues, could easily be applied to Mr. Douthat's argumentation hear and tear it to shreds in short order. That wouldn't necessarily provide a clear alternative solution but there is no solution presented in this disjointed, swing-about encomium of the Tea Party movement.

    The Socratic technique involved listening carefully to the whole of the other orator's thought, encouraging expansion upon it, allowing self-confidence to build and waiting until the whole proposition is presented as self-evident truth before pouncing. Then you go back to the basic premises, identify their constituent terms and start asking questions about their definitions. The cross examination demonstrates the inadequate understanding, whether through ignorance or will to mislead, of those terms. Once the definitions are dismantled and corrected, the revised terms are shown actually to contradict the premises, which then fall apart. The fallacious argument starts to evaporate.

    Look at Ross's wandering prose and try it for sport. What is he talking about, exactly? What point is he trying to make?

    Lower taxes and cut spending? Entitlements are the problem? Companies will then invest more, produce more, need new workers and the riches will generously be allowed to trickle down? We're back to the Laffer Curve, when riches never trickled down but always evaporated up---except when speculative juggernauts could be set rolling! But speculative juggernauts always end the same way. When enough people jump on the bandwagon its wheels come off. And pathetically praising the thoroughly beffudled Tea Party movement in the process.

    Strange.

  48. Oh yes, cut those pesky entitlements, like Social Security, which had paid for itself since its inception and can continue to do so as long as the government honors its debts (those infamous IOUs) and makes sensible adjustments to the revenue base by raising the cap and adjusting contribution rates as needed.

    Medicare? Do we mean it with this program or not? Are we ready to ditch four decades of retired workers not having to worry about at least a minimal income and cheap medical care? For what? Corporate greed? Tax cuts for billionaires?

    Not a word about the fiscal excesses of the Department of "Defense" and its imperial profligacy. Never a thought given to comparing our structure and outcomes to those of other advanced nations. We're Americans, and we're exceptional, after all. No introspection or self-doubt required here. Yes, we are. We are an exceptional failure as a modern nation, precisely because manipulated public opinion is fact-averse and sacrifice-resistant, and because a pretty well-designed system of distributed governmental powers has succumbed to a flood of dirty money and sold souls.

    Yes, a pledge to finish the job that Reagan started: a stake through the heart of the middle-class American dream and a post-democratic modern feudal society. Now there's a flag to rally around.

  49. Inspired by the Tea Party's plank of returning to our roots, I am announcing today the Me Party. While the Me Party and the Tea Party will have our differences, I believe there are some areas of common ground, and I look forward to working with them.

    Here is the Me Party Platform and it's requirements -

    I get to play baseball all day with my friends in my old backyard. Seizure of property and the internment of old friends.

    I will get my leisure suit back. More wars to acquire the oil required to meet my polyester supply needs.

    I get to have at least one good fist fight a day. Ethnic cleansing of soccer moms, replaced with mother's in Beehive Hairdos, who just throw their kids out of the house to settle important issues; like whether someone was out of bounds when they caught a pass, in street football.

    I will have the ability to walk into a dime store and get a five finger discount. Mass production of Aqua Velva and Shoe String Licorice. It will also require the elimination of surveillance video and Social Security, so old men and women, will be forced back to work in the dime stores.

    I get to go trick-or-treating again wearing my dollar Devil costume with the cheap rubber band mask. Again, the need for more wars to acquire the oil needed to supply my fantasy plastic needs. Also throw in more plastic so I can again play my glow-in-the-dark Ouija Board.

    I get to go back to my old Catholic grade school. Forced recruitment and maintenance of abstaining nuns. Systematic elimination of complex science and math curriculum; replaced with those cool small coloring books of Genesis.

    I will have an ample supply of cut off jeans frayed at the edges. Mass production of $ 5 dollar jeans to be cut up, washed and hung to dry on clothes lines.

    And oh, I almost forgot, I get the right to bear arms. Speedy return of my old BB gun.

  50. Gotta love it. We'll take a pledge not to change a thing. We certainly won't say anything that might make us accountable for any consequences of our actions. Am I the only one who is hearing this?
    Are we to believe that voting for the exact same policy agenda that was voted out just 2 years ago is the answer to our troubles?
    Are they saying that this time will be different?
    Why do I get the feeling SS "reform" is going to amount to raising that tax, (already the largest amount withheld) and finding a way to cheat out of their money the very ones who have been supporting that scheme for the last 40-50 years.
    No one has a plan to fix that problem, apparently, so here's mine.
    Pick a date, and shut the program down, those who have paid in will receive T-bonds equal to their account balance, after all, that is really all that is in the fund anyway. There, payroll tax holiday for ever! Great for business! Every working American sees an immediate stimulus to their net wages. Great for demand! Then if they want to invest in wall street, they have a choice in the matter, and won't be forced into another gigantic 401k that ultimately gets plundered by the pillars of our community. Of course, reform isn't about the people. Reform means increasing the flow of the revenue stream, and changing to whom we divert it.
    I have another simple solution to the country's problems. Let's replace all the people we hire to come up with good ideas and are not. If we worked for them, and did this poorly, w/this little effort, and this many excuses, we'd be fired. We owe them the same consideration.
    Replace them All!!

  51. I am guilty of being a recipient of Social Security retirement and Medicare benefits. Moreover, I retired from state government with a generous pension and health care benefits. Nevertheless I support the Tea Party goal of cutting government spending, including especially future Social Security, Medicare, and state employee pension and benefits. I say future benefits because I was a fool in my younger days who relied on promises made by the government and failed to adequately prepare for my old age.

    Young people, especially journalists like Douthat, like to accuse people like me of hipocracy. Not so. I and others like me are the beneficiaries of solemn promises made by political elites in past decades. We relied on those promises. We planned our lives and careers around those promises. We did not save enough. We did not encourage our heirs and younger colleagues to ignore the solemn promises made by politicans of both parties aided and abetted by fawning journalists like Douthat and to save more of their pay because the politicians would be forced to break their promises.

    Now, thanks to the Tea Party activists, we know better. The message implicit in Tea Party activism by people benefiting from Social Secutiry and Medicare is this:

    Kids, if you are under 50, forget about it. Social Security and Medicare will not be there for you when you retire. If you are a public employee, find another job because tax payers will not be able to afford you.

    The rise of the Tea Party activism, in spite of all the media demonization and lame SNL skits is thanks to two politicians - Obama and Chris Christie.

    Obama led the way with Health Reform. He promised to pay for public expansion of health insurance coverage through expansion of Medicare and Medicaid by, get this, "reforming" Medicare, that is by spending less on Medicare. The illogic of this argument was obvious to everyone, except to politicians and the journalists who are supposed to look into political promises. The illogic of paying for more public health care by cutting future Medicare benefits was especially obvious to those of us already reliant on those benefits. A lot of people say that Obama thinks we are fools. I think he was just naive.

    Then comes Christie. While Republicans elsewhere, egged on by Douthat, try to win votes with promises to establish a nativist Christian theocracy in this country, Christie, as far as I know, is speaking the truth to people in New Jersey. In a folksy way, but without giving an inch, he is telling NJ's teachers and other public employees that the promises made by earlier politicians are not sustainable.

    The message of many Tea Party activists, including those hipocrits who receive Social Security and Medicare, is simple: The promises made cannot be kept. Future generations will be slaves to debt and the nation we love will be ruined. Stop it now.

  52. In all the rhetoric by conservatives regarding tax cuts as the solution to generating greater job growth and then revenue, an analogy often used is running government like you run a household. Cutting spending . When your deep in debt on the home front you may cut some spending but with a great majority of Americans now working paycheck to paycheck more often than not a person works overtime as much as possible or looks for a second income or a third. Hence we can conclude greater revenue is needed to bring our budget in order. There is no difference in government, if government is deep in debt it must generate more revenue not less, and we all now know the truth about tax cuts, they offer a very short term solution to a long term problem, that is, they don't solve the debt problem, short term revenue growth with higher deficits to follow is what history now dictates that happens when tax cuts are used for growth. Our country is sick, we all need to pay a little more to make sure it gets better, our failure to do so will result in the further devaluation of our currency and eventually our country essentially bankrupt. Let the Bush era tax cuts die. Education and infrastructure need money and debt needs to drop. Cut defense spending. Cure the patient or kill him, its our choice, but the patient is us.

    Thomas Mcmahon
    Millis Ma

  53. It will be everyone's tragic loss if we can't get political leadership that tells it like it really is, tough choices and all. There is an incredible opportunity for a brave platform of honesty willing to take the kind of deliberate non-politically motivated action that might actually get us on the road to recovery. We may be just sick enough that someone saying we need to take some tough medicine would appeal to the majority. I think the Republicans and Democrats alike think if they tell us the truth they will lose and that is all that really matters to them.

    It could turn out that such a party wouldn't win. But at least when we find ourselves years down the road with the same problems we could say we had a choice and it is our own fault. The Republicans and Democrats once again are giving us two versions of ineffectiveness in the pursuit of power and that means we don't really have a choice.

  54. If the Tea Party's goal is to produce a short document full of glossy photos and vaguely patriotic positions without substance, then they have succeeded with the release of the House Republicans’ Pledge to America. If the Tea Party wishes to embrace the “starve the beast” conceit or the idea that tax cuts actually increase government revenue, this is truly a monumental moment for their movement. I call the recent GOP publicity stunt the Republican Plague on America, as it only promises to repeat the errors of the Bush Administration that crashed our economy in the first place. The only thing missing is a war of choice (can you say Iran, of course you can). It is too bad if the so called Tea Party is so easily influenced that it can be co-opted by a glossy bit of fluff the size of a comic book.
    Then again, Douthat is as predictably unreliable as the GOP spin-masters when he steers the conversation to "the only way to really bring the budget into balance is to reform (i.e., cut) Medicare and Social Security". That is absolutely a lie. We can also bring the budget back into balance by returning the tax codes to something similar to what we had under Eisenhower. We can also end our addiction to unfunded military adventurism as promoted by Bush, Cheney and the Neo-Conservatives as part of their desire to build an American military empire. We can end the fallacy of free market self regulation and put our monetary system back on a sound basis by reigning in the excesses of the big banks, Wall Street and commodities speculators. We can stop kowtowing to wealthy corporations by abandoning the free trade mantra that has promoted the export of our industrial base to lands with poverty level wages, little or no protection for the people working in the factories and lands that have no environmental protections.
    There is a great deal we could do, without further eroding the quality of life for the majority of citizens in this nation merely to satisfy (momentarily) the avarice of wealthiest among us.

  55. Sorry, Ross old boy, but you are dead wrong. The tax cuts of the early '60s produced increased revs (and your hero JFK did that). The Reagan tax cuts in the '80s did the same (but winning the cold war while maintaining the 'Great Society' cost a bunch - but it was well worth it, huh?). Ditto for the 'Bush cuts', although the top tier tax cuts didn't affect the overall tax 'rate' as these 'cuts' only affected the 'last dollar', not the total tax package.
    If you liberals would just realize that leaving more money in everyone's hands (that is, those who actually did something to EARN it) always encourages investment and efficient use of the capital.
    How could earning it, then giving it to government and then government giving it back (but only to 'approved' users - read beholden democrat voters) be as efficient as leaving it alone to begin with? Answer: no way.
    Tea party types simply want to keep as much of their own money as possible and want to be left alone by the government to produce and thrive by their own lights.
    Pretty simple for straight-ahead thinking. But for the tortuous twistings of the liberal mind which knows only 'ends', it can be confusing.
    The next lesson in small government and low taxes will be held Nov. 2, 2010 with the final exam in Nov, 2012.
    Gradution ceremonies will be held in January 2013. And the new age will start.
    Can't wait!

  56. The trouble with this superficial column is that there is no data in it, no facts. Here are two facts that might have informed the discussion:

    1. All other industrialized countries have some form of universal government run health care. They get better care as measured by all the bottom line public health statistics, and they do it at half the cost per person. If our system were as efficient, we would save about $1.3 TRILLION each year.

    2. In 1946 the debt was 120% of the GDP, It went straight down to about 32% in 1973. During this period 1946 - 1973 taxes were much higher. Marginal rates were at least 70%; they were 93% under Eisenhower. The economy was better than what we now have. For example, median wages went up 3 times as fast as since 1973. CEO's earned 50 times what their workers earned; it is 500 times today. Staring in 1973, the percent of wealth and income taken by the richest 10%, 1%, and 0.1% has gone up at an ever increasing rate.

  57. Sorry Ross, "everybody" doesn't know that cutting Medicaid and Social Security are the only solutions to the budget deficit. This is what's called trying to pass off right wing myths as conventional wisdom. There are many more efficient and moral ways to achieve fiscal sanity, namely; reducing defense expenditure, both in overseas commitments and in new purchases; reforming the tax system so that the wealthy and corporations actually pay some while increasing the rates for the wealthy across the board including social security contributions (remember that in the conservative's golden age of the 1950's the top rate was 90%); and investing in American manufacturing, a little p[protectionism would go a long way.

  58. If what the tea partiers really want is to cut spending, then let's cut it. The most logical place to cut is the unmanageable, unnecessary, unrealistic, and unbelievable US military budget, which is unquestionably the most bloated area of government spending. We could reduce the deficit and have plenty left over to put into programs to help the poor and the middle class regain their footing in this forever changed economy. But, having listened to many tea party leaders (and a few followers) for the past couple of months, it is obvious to me that this is not want they really want. They use this small-government rhetoric, but what they really want is less spending on the poor, more spending on the rich (tax cuts for the wealthy and laws that help big business and corporations), and increased government involvement in our personal lives. Doesn't it seem odd to anyone that these people who so champion keeping government out of our lives are so vehemently in favor of government telling us who we can and cannot marry? These tea partiers are either not very smart or they are merely dancing to the tune that their corporate backers play. Douthat's analysis of them is simplistic and naive and, like to many of his pieces, not up to the high standards of the New York Times in terms of analysis or writing.

  59. The political problem now faced by the US is the result of unchecked capitalism that has used the power of money and lobbyists to shape policies favourable to the corporatocracy, including government's outsourcing of too many services to the private sector (which is massively overcharging while underproviding), reduction of rules and regulations (which business interests call "red tape") leading to disasters such as those recently seen in mining and oil drilling as well as in the financial sector's near meltdown, and undertaxation of the wealthy combined with subsidies to multinationals to move jobs to other countries.

    All this has led the public to feel rage, but has not pushed people to become better educated and informed of the issues. So this rage is being channeled toward the Tea Party movement, which is being paid for and manipulated by the very corporatocracy that is at the root of the problem. The result of this rage could be a disaster for the country, as even worse people than the present crew could get elected.

  60. Fiscal responsibility is achieved by regulating corporations, including financial institutions; by increasing taxes on wealthy corporations and individuals; by giving more income to the poor Americans so that they are no longer poor, and, as well, giving more income to the working and middle classes of Americans so that they all also can live healthy and comfortable lives; by providing for special education for all Americans on how to manage their incomes and how to engage in responsible purchasing. By doing the aforementioned the American economy would thrive because the large majority of Americans would be successfully and effectively involved with each another. There would be liberty and justice for all.
    Voting the Republican fox back into the hen house will undoubtedly be fiscally irresponsible.
    Cutting entitlements would be fiscally irresponsible.
    Considering one's self and one's reference group to be better than others causes fiscal irresponsibility.

  61. The problem is not necessarily the administration or members of congress, but an American electorate whose brush with the knowledge of the Internet and coffee table symposiums has led them to believe that they have all the answers. Intense anger coupled with unsustainable answers fires up their answers to polls and their decisions in the voting booth.

    At the same time, elected officials, putting their re-election and their party above everything else, seek to provide the policy the electorate wants so desperately.

    It is difficult to believe that Angle's "Second Amendment remedies" concept and that a "Pledge to America" promising to create smaller government is so blithely accepted. Using guns rather to get one's way and cutting Social Security and Medicare probably are the obvious results, but when protesters carry signs that threaten: "Keep Government Hands off my Social Security" we know that there are enough disconnects to go around.

    which theory points to a dismanteling of Social Security and Medicare

  62. I agree with much of what is written here, but I feel compelled to add two further points. First, the tea party movement is not a grass roots movement. I know that many in the media want to label it as such to give it unwarranted legitimacy, but it is funded by billionaire special interests who use their wealth to convince the ill-informed to rally for the corporate interests of a few. Second, you predictably point to Social Security and Medicare as the most expensive of government programs and the ones we need to cut in order to balance the budget. I disagree. We MUST either end these wars, close our military bases in Europe, and cut the military budget - or raise taxes. As things are now, the military is sucking this country dry.

  63. Mr. Douthat... as usual you continue to provide Republican talking points that are half-truths at best and myths at worse. Social Security is not part of the deficit nor part of the present financial crisis. It can pay out at 100% until 2036 and can pay out at 75% after 2036 under the most of conservative estimates. A slight increase in FICA down the road will take care of Social Security for the long term. If you want to spread lies about Social Security go work for liars like Pete Peterson and the Peterson Foundation. Medicare is a problem because the entire healthcare system is in crisis. We can not continue to pay twice as much per capita as all the industrial nations for our healthcare. Especially for a healthcare system that produces outcomes worse than many of the other industrial nations. Solve the healthcare crisis and you reduce most of the long term deficit crisis. President Obama and the Democrats had a chance to make the changes required to make our healthcare system affordable and still cover everyone and they choked. Our defense and intelligence spending is insane with or without our current deficit crisis. We can easily reduce this spending by 50% and still have the largest military in the world. The 50% savings could be better used on rebuilding this nation and once again making us competitive with other industrial countries that are moving ahead of us and I'm not talking about China which is a train wreck waiting to happen. Finally, we need to return the marginal tax rate to the prosperous Eisenhower level of 70% until this mess is cleaned up and our country is back on track. It does not do the country a darn bit of good to have 80% of the wealth in this country tied up by 20% of the people in this country. Instead of stealing from the American people by robbing Social Security we need to reinvest that 80% back into the economy that generated the wealth in the first place!

  64. "And as everybody knows, the only way to really bring the budget into balance is to reform (i.e., cut) Medicare and Social Security, a topic that nobody in Congress — save the indefatigable Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan — is particularly eager to touch."

    Actually, this congress passed a medicare-cutting, deficit-reducing bill: The Affordable Care Act. Paul Ryan, along with all republicans, voted against it.

    Anyone who voted for the Affordable Care Act did cut Medicare. The act phases out extra payments to Medicare Advantage plans and saves billions. It was an act of fiscal responsibility with real deficit-reducing power that was roundly criticized by republicans, who now are sailing into power on empty rhetoric about the deficit and proposals for spending cuts that are merely symbolic. This bill does more to reduce the deficit and the long-term fiscal trajectory of the government than any republican initiative has ever done. Yet, columnists like Ross continue to propagate the myth that both parties are equally unserious about deficits.

  65. The Pledge, like other Tea Party goals, continues to ignore the biggest part of "big government," Defense. If we are going to cut spending, start with the agency with the most waste and negligence. How much do we pay for the Grade D meat contractors serve our troops in war zones? There is a deafening silence on contractor theft, overcharging, and double billing. Where is the outrage over losing pallets of money, guns, and shoulder mounted missiles? Where is the outrage over the treatment of returning soldiers? The Pledge wants to reduce government services in the U.S. but maintain 700 military bases world wide. The Pledge has the scent of big business. Military contractors using foreign workers to make our weapons systems is not jobs or security issue. The Pledge kicks in if foreign workers sneak into our country.

  66. So Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security (and probably unemployment benefits) for our citizens, many of whom are on the verge of, or already in, destitution, need to be drastically cut or eliminated, while the trillions of wasted tax payer dollars going to the military/industrial complex for unnecessary wars, adventures and so called nation building (or empire building) overseas, including the billions in outsourcing of tax dollars by the Pentagon to blatantly corrupt military/"nation building" contractor/mercenary corporations, well that's okay (as are the lobbyist created one sided tax breaks for multinational corporations and the very wealthy who can afford to live behind security fences--just like the third world). You Republicans and tea baggers (the same thing) are such hypocrites! You think this what the founding fathers intended? With you back in power, banana republic, here we come.

  67. The original Contract with America was "squishy," but this is substantive? There's not an ounce of real, substantiated ideas within the 8,000-word mess.

    Slash taxes, but keep entitlements and military spending steady? It's really easy to sit back and tell the voters that they can have everything they want without making any personal sacrifices (or, more accurately, without the rich making sacrifices).

    The entire "Declaration" theme is focus-tested tripe — It's specifically directed toward the Revolutionary War role players walking around on the mall dressed in tri-corner hats screaming at moderates to "wake up" and "take our country back."

    There's not a single political risk or novel thought in the entire document, just bad math and feelings, patched with lies.

    I won't even start on what it "inspires" me to do …

  68. How about we fix this the right way and stop giving tax breaks to the wealthiest 2 percent, who pay far less than they should as it is. Spending is only half the issue, if that. Paying for infrastructure and services costs money. The price is taxes. Those who want the benefits of a civilized society need to stop whining and start paying for them. It doesn't take extremism, just common sense, to improve the spending:revenue ratio. Lowering taxes simply won't work no matter what the scenario. Wishing it weren't so doesn't change this reality.

  69. A good column but would be better if you acknowledged that going to war on two fronts and using social security to pay for it, was a Republican president (or vice-president's idea). We have to accept that we do not have the financial resources to invade every country that we think has human rights violations or harbors terrorists. It's not 1941 anymore.

    And I'm not sure why adults who have worked their whole lives and paid into the social security system should be penalized by the fiscal irresponsibility of a Republican president who went to "war" without thinking about the financial and physical cost to our nation and our military and decided to borrow from the social security fund to pay for it.

  70. I’m having trouble finding any “admirable substance” in the Tea Party movement. I do agree that it’s hard to figure out exactly what they stand for, since they don’t actually come out and say they’re incipient racists, conspiracy theorists, and generally ignorant of the real world. You seem to think they have some good ideas, which presumably counterbalance the witchcraft, denial of evolution and climate change, and those nagging suspicions about Mr. Obama’s anti-colonial Muslim roots. The O’Donnells and the Angles and the rest keep repeating such abject nonsense that it’s sometimes difficult to parody them, as the parodies fall short of the reality. Which of their good ideas do you think makes up for the general lunacy?

    You say the only way to bring the budget into balance is to cut Medicare and Social Security. Well, that’s one way. We can pull the rug out from under the sick and the elderly and others who have lost jobs and homes and who aren’t making six-figure salaries, because the alternative – taxing the filthy rich – is simply too horrible for Republicans to contemplate. I guess conservatives recognize the grim necessity of painful cuts, as long as they’re not the ones feeling the pain.

    True conservatives have a reason to be grateful to the Tea Party, as they’re so disconnected from reality that they say what thoughtful, empathetic people with human feeling wouldn’t be able to say, but which the Republicans seem to harbor in their heart of hearts. But I just don’t see how shoveling more money into the coffers of the obscenely rich has anything to do with fiscal responsibility.

  71. "And as everybody knows, the only way to really bring the budget into balance is to reform (i.e., cut) Medicare and Social Security...."

    Am I the only person made crazy by statements like these? Those two programs are 2 spending legs to the deficit stool--what about military spending? Why is that never mentioned? And why oh why do you fail to mention the obvious--tax increases. THAT is the only way to really bring the budget under control.

    Obama is asking for a measley 3% on the highest 1%. Even Saint Ronny (another spend-crazy deficit and government increasing Republican you failed to mention)operated with a higher top tier tax rate.

    I say go further, Obama/Dems, and also raise the tax cap on SSI. Why not raise the threshold $103K to $200 or $250K, or even the entire amount? But oh no, we have to cut spending, even though you conservatives argue that decreasing spending (via tax increases) is fiscal disaster. That, to me, is the big clue this libertarian movement is completely bogus--if those teabag loonies were actually serious about the deficit, they'd pay it handily through reasonable tax increases--3% on 1% of the population, for crying out loud!

    And finally, I get so tired of hearing SS/Medicare called "entitlements." I've been paying into them my entire working life, thank you very much, and I expect, nay demand they be there for me. If my parents didn't have Medicare--which they paid into--they would be living in my guestroom since they would have been bankrupted by health care costs long ago. But I guess the obvious answer to that--single payer--will never see the light of day in this column. Fine, my taxes finance the scam artists in the insurance industry, but don't tell me that my payments to a system that ranks among the lowest in the world are an "entitlement."

  72. Mr Douthat you are correct. It is pointless to call Tea partiers irrational, they are a grassroots movement recting to widespread voter dissatisfaction with Congress and the Democrat and Republican 'solutions'.
    The Democrats have had a majority which they have not used to get their policies implemented in part because they do not seem to agree on what their policies are, and in part because they seem to be scared of the Republicans.
    Other nations have two party government, Australia and the UK both found themselves in a similar position to the USA, and in both countries there are now minority governments governing with coalition partners who are really not aligned with them in policy.
    Perhaps the Tea Party needs to form a real political party, at present it is an inchoate popular movement.
    There are structural problems in US government, the most serious being the takeover of American politics by the Military Industrial Complex,as forecast by Republican president Eisenhower. Until legislators can be freed from the people who finance their campaigns and come to truly represent the American people again there will continue to be problems in US politics. The Tea Pparty will have to ensure that they are not coopted by big money and the MIC, and that might be difficult as money has too large a place in US politics at present.
    America has already lost her moral influence in the world, and I regard that as unfortunate, I would rather have the USA setting the tone than China.

  73. Interesting how no one ever mentions cutting our excessive military and our "use of force" to solve all problems. Germany has moved from war to rebuilding their country and a splendid country it is; lots of green building, great roads and trains. Our roads, bridges, cities, parks, schools and everything else that composes a "civilization" is falling apart and still we fight on, following Russia to a story of "Rise and Fall of the Great Powers." How stupid can we be? The world is going green and still we drop bombs.

  74. "And as everybody knows, the only way to really bring the budget into balance is to reform (i.e., cut) Medicare and Social Security, a topic that nobody in Congress — save the indefatigable Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan — is particularly eager to touch."

    And what about corporate tax policies that encourage American and multi-national corporations to oursouces manufacturing and even at times service jobs (call centers for instance) and the other eight hundred pound gorilla in the room that you don't seem to notice--the money and debt to finance our obscenely powerful push-button military technology and two wars (actualy occupations after the first few weeks) that have continued for most of the last decade. We have mindlessly attacked a few thousand insurgants in rural communities and caves and spend our national treasure on wars the scope of which is absurd.
    And your solution, Ross--punish those who through out their lifetime contributed to government retirement and medical care programs rather than string up the politicans. It is the politicans who misdirected that money and ran up huge deficits by continuing to spend without adquately taxing to pay for governmetn expenses.

    Other than a half hearted slap on republican wrists, what you say is nonsense, and your smart enough to know it. You are a paid lobbyist represently the interests of the ultra wealthy, and thus are one of whose who are on the verge of destroying our once great country.

  75. "... Republican majorities and Republican presidents have tended to pass tax cuts while putting off spending cuts till a tomorrow that never comes"? Mr. Douthat, that is a cheap shot. I think you know that. Under Prresident Reagan, Tip O'Neill was more responsible than any other individual for Federal spending rising. The Reagan tax cuts greatly increased revenue to the Treasury. The problem was that the Democrats in Congress could not resist spending even more money than the increase in the receipts. Note that President Reagan never had both a Republican House and a Republican Senate at the same time, and only had a Republican Senate for part of his eight years in office.

    President George H. W. Bush never had a Republican Congress, either.

    In 1994, the public had finally had enough of 4 decades of one-party control of the United States House of Representatives, and swept the Republicans into power. Because of their victory, they were able to force President Clinton into "ending welfare as we know it" and balancing the Federal budget. The latter was something he had repeatedly denied — before it was done on his watch — that it could be done on his watch.

    President George W. Bush had a Republican House and a Republican Senate for only part of his two terms. From the time he was elected in 2000 until the elections in 2002, he had a Republican House but a Democrat Senate. In the 2006 elections, both the House and Senate went into the hands of the Democrats. Thus, in reality, and contrary to the assertions of many on the Left, it simply isn't true that the Republicans were in control of everything for the 8 years of George W. Bush's Presidency. Moreover, true control of Congress requires a working majority in the House, but also at least 60 solid votes in the Senate, because of Senate rules regarding cloture and the filibuster.

    How long has it been since any President had that? Not long at all: President Obama had it for most of his first term to date. This country is about to give evidence of their understanding of and reaction to that control. How long, though, since any Republican President's Party has controlled both Houses and had a minimum of 60 votes in the Senate? Well, Mr. Douthat, why don't you provide that answer? Then you can tell us lots more about what 'Republican majorities and Republican presidents have tended to do.'

    Republican Houses, Senates or Presidents have had to cooperate and compromise with Democrats to get anything done. All too often, Democrats, with their cheering section in so much of the media, have been delighted to engage in the very obstructionism of which they and their allies have so unstintingly accused Republicans since Mr. Obama became President. This, despite the fact that for a great deal of his term so far, President Obama has enjoyed the ability to get passed and sign into law any legislation upon which he and the Congressional Democrats could agree. They simply didn't need any votes from any Republicans at all. The House and Senate Republicans, for much of President Obama's term so far, haven't had enough votes to obstruct a coffee break, let alone so much as a single piece of actual legislation.

    The historical record is clear, Mr. Douthat.

  76. Ross, Thanks for bringing our some facts. There is a great misconception that all conservatives believe in low govt spending. A large number of conservatives are conservatives because they have tendencies of religious extremism, racism or intolerance towards other human beings. Look at lot of red states, they rely on Federal spending like Defence to support their economies. Most of these states receive from Federal govt a lot more than they paid in taxes. You rightly point out a large number of Tea partiers receive medicare and social security. On avg, a medicare recipient will get $200,000 more in benefits than they ever paid in taxes. A conservative on medicare complaining about Federal spending is a joke.

  77. What a wonderful prescription you have for an ailing America. Let's cut taxes (a strategy that most benefits the wealthy) and reduce spending on vital social programs (a strategy that benefits, oh my god, mostly the wealthy.) We could not possibly become fiscally responsible by raising taxes on the wealthy to maintain vital social programs. That would benefit mostly the, oh my god, unwealthy. Your thinking and that of the Tea addicts is why we are one of the few countries in the world still debating about whether we are wealthy enough to see to the medical needs of our citizens.

  78. We all know there is not much left to cut in spending that would make a meaningful difference in the deficit picture, at least nothing that is politically feasible. That reveals the hypocrisy of all on the right side of the political spectrum, including Mr. Douthat and the Tea Partiers, which cannot bring themselves to admit that there is another side to this equation, which is raising taxes for the rich, even moderately. The still stick to the Reagan fantasy that lower taxes on the rich stimulates the economy. The rich put their money anywhere in the world that gives the most return. Only a fraction of that would be invested in the US. That makes tax cuts for the rich a bad investment of public's money.

  79. The Tea Party represents, to some extent, the yearning for a bona fide third party that will really answer to the people who elect them, rather than all the special interests and monied corporate backing that currently control both Parties. On one level they know this, hence the mood to want to whip the Republicans back into shape. Since it seems that we are SO programmed into this political duopoly, the chances of there ever being a bona fide third party is quite remote. With thanks to the Bull Moose of yore, and Ross Perot's valiant attempt in the 1990's - if he'd only picked a better VP candidate... sigh. Which points up the singular fact that Parties are just collections of fallible people. What is truly needed is for the nebulous ideas to coalesce, to be accepted or rejected on terms of clear understanding - this warm, fuzzy populism doesn't make me feel so warm, nor fuzzy and with the dollop of racism thrown in here or there, quite so popular, either. The closer we get to the midterms, the more of a circus we will see. Enjoy the show.

  80. Ross Douthat claims that the only way to cut the budget and the deficit is to cut social entitlements, Social Security and Medicare. As they are each funded separately through their own payroll taxes, each can be dealt with on its own. Income taxes, at their lower level in decades already, on the other hand ... well in spite of all the talk of boondoggles, fraud and waste, the vast majority of our income taxes go to our various security forces, from the CIA and the NSA to the USN, the USMC, the USAF, the US Army, and Department of Homeland Security, which I suppose is called the DHS. The military-security establishment is by far the largest consumer of income-tax dollars.

    The US had one of the world's smallest military and security budgets, supposedly relying on an energetic armed citizenry for security and defense, for its first century and more. Now we have the largest budget of any nation for these things, and every other need the country has is being short-changed because of it. We never really 'stood down' after WWII, and the cumulative cost of being the world's superpower is the millstone tied round our necks.

    I will believe those who claim they want small and inexpensive government, as in the good old days, when they are prepared to dismantle this behemoth. I don't know the views of Rand Paul on this, but I have heard his father Ron Paul quoted as saying that 'You can have a republic, or you can have an empire, but you can't have both.'

    Balancing the budget some day will depend on dealing with Medicare, Social Security, AND the National Security Machine.

    We're like folks on a sinking ship, a ship carrying a valuable cargo of iron safes and gold bars, screaming at each other about lightening the vessel, and chiefly arguing over whether the deck chairs or the galley dishes should go over the side first. Nobody wants to talk about throwing out the cargo dragging the vessel down.

    Or like folks who are looking for the right ointment with which to treat their heart disease.

    Sham and hypocrisy.

  81. You are right to point out the hypocrisy of the "small" government Republicans who greatly enlarged the size of government (but since most of it went to private defense contractors or the military, it doesn't really count, does it?). It will be sad if the genuine angst of the tea party is co-opted by the Republican establishment, which is cynically attempting to use Tea Party inspired fear and anger to regain power. But you're wrong to suggest that cutting spending is the appropriate approach to dealing with the deficit. Cutting spending in the midst of a recession caused by a lack of consumption is not wise. At this point, we can only attempt to limit the damage to the deficit without crashing the economy, and the only way to do that is increase taxes on the only income group that has not been suffering, the top 1%. Ending the Bush tax cuts on income over $250k (remembering that even those income earners still get to take advantage of the existing tax cuts that applies to their income of less than $250k, so they're not being "punished") is the only sensible approach.

  82. Mr. Douthat mentions Social Security and Medicare when suggesting spending cuts but does not mention the military - the single biggest budget item. Cut military spending in half (it would still be five times that of China - the next biggest spender) and budget difficulties are largely solved. Why would legislators prefer to cut programs which help people in favor of those which hurt people? The bloated military also tempts government to use force when diplomacy might work - Viet Nam, Granada, Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba - and would certainly be less expensive in lives and treasure. America's military interventions since WWII have been generally unsuccessful. If Republicans talked about cutting the defense budget I might take them a bit more seriously.

    The Pledge to America is a fantasy and, as Mr. Douthat points out, perpetuates the notion that the U.S. can spend mountains of cash on weapons and wage needless war while cutting taxes. Contrary to the rantings of the right it is neither liberalism, nor socialism which is at the root of America's fiscal problems; it is militarism.

  83. Entitlement reform is not the ONLY way to balance the budget. Our Defense Department is way too large for the current threats we face. How many aircraft carriers do we really need? How many troops do we have permanently assigned overseas? The wars against Germany and Japan ended 65 years ago; the war in Korea ended 57 years ago; yet we still have hundreds of thousands of troops "over there." If we need this many troops, they could be stationed "stateside" where they would help our domestic economy. Finally, the tax code is far less progressive today than it once was, with the richest portion of our nation being protected by lobbyists from having to pay a larger cost of the government whose financial institutions protected them from the economic collapse.

  84. Maybe I don't get out enough but I've never knowingly come face-to-face with a tea party member and I'm beginning to think that the whole movement is a concoction from an underused, Hollywood back lot with pretend buildings and people in costumes. There's no there, there. That the republicans are trying to entice these characters to their stage with promises to cut government, save for the parts people seem to like or prosper from, suggests that the GOP has finally given up all pretense to govern the country as it actually is. It prefers, as I'm told the tea party holds as a first principle, that what we actually see is not really what is actually there. AKA, the willing suspension of disbelief.

  85. Very insightful. But isn't this the way things have to go? The Tea Partiers make no sense, of course, and this bothers them not in the least: they do not feel a need to make sense. They are a parade that any number of people would like to get in front of, but the problem is there is no coherent set of policies that an aspiring leader might adopt to get out front. It is fine to talk about going back to the constitution and shaking up Washington and reducing spending and lowering taxes and fearing god, the tea partiers seem to like all that, but what, specifically, is the action to be taken? No-one knows. Any program that might actually achieve the professed objectives would quickly be rejected by the tea partiers themselves. Those who would hope to harness the tea party do not want the party to end, so no-one wants to douse the group with reality. The best approach is to let the movement keep going, running in the open field so to speak, until they run themselves into the Republican corral, because there is no place else to go.

  86. Douthat asserts, without providing any evidence, that the only way to get the US budget under control is to reduce social security and medicare. How about reducing miitary expenditures? How about reducing agribusiness subsidies? How about reducing subsiidies for fossil fuel extraction? How about reducing subsidies for nuclear fission?

    Revenues could be increased by reinstituting the principle of progressive taxation and especially by beefing up the anti-dynastic estate tax. Eliminate the tax exemptions for religious institutions. Absolutely do not transfer tax money to "faith based organizations".

  87. Why are the so called entitlements the only thing ever mentioned in balancing the spending budgets? We the people pay into social security and medicare and it is just fine for the next 30 years. and we have a generation coming up that outnumber the baby boomers who will contribute to tax revenue coming in if there is living wage jobs left in this country. Why not cut the spending on wasteful military industrial complex, subsidies to outdated industires of $200 billion year, some industries that have outlived their usefulness ie. oil and coal and gas, agri-biz, tabacco, pork projects and $30 billion a year to Isarel. Get real and really look at wasteful fraudulent spending.

  88. I recommend that people go to the library and read the history of the 1920's and 1930's, the "Roaring Twenties" and the "Great Depression". If they did, they may begin to understand the need for government regulation of "greed is good" business. Too many people in the USA are ignorant of history and economics.

    When money is taken out of the economy and when productivity is not justly shared with the working class, recession and depression results. There is a need for democratic planning processes and regulation of business; don't let these necessary activities be demonized as "socialism".

  89. Recommending fiscal austerity during a very weak recovery from a recession is not logical or intelligent. It echoes the missteps the government took in 1937-8, bringing on the Depression's worst times. Then we had World War II to pull us out. But in our current mess, with two wars going already, a third won't help.

    But then, we don't really expect intelligence from conservatives, only that old-time emotion masquerading as an effective response to current problems.

  90. Former OMB Director David Stockman [Reagan administration] was interviewed on NPR a few days ago: "When I look at the Republican plan, I have to say I think it's half right on some things and it's half baked on a lot of others. It is right in at least addressing the out of control spending problem and it is true that non-defense discretionary spending has soared, not only since Obama came in, but even as bad during the Bush administration, it rose 60 percent.

    The problem is the deficit is 1.5 trillion and growing, and what they're [Republicans] proposing on non-defense spending will save 100 billion if we're lucky and I doubt that they would actually accomplish that if they were in charge.

    So when you try to solve the problem by filling 7 percent of the hole, I don't think you've gotten very far. And in the process, you're telling the people of America that we can solve this issue, which is very dangerous, the deficit that we're facing and the debt we're building up, by not raising taxes on anyone. That, in my judgment, is a big lie."

  91. Let me chime in on the obvious: "And as everybody knows, the only way to really bring the budget into balance is to reform (i.e., cut) Medicare and Social Security..."

    No hard stats here but I would bet that the only spending area where we are way out whack (on the high side) with the rest of the industrialized world is military spending and for some reason that appears to be off the table. I just don't get it. I suspect that conservatives don't really want to reduce spending; they just want to spend more on their paranoia than on Christian principles of providing for the less well off.

  92. Evidently Douthat can't admit to himself that the Tea Party isn't truly committed to spending cuts, either; every time you try to get them to identify specific areas to cut they focus on some minnow program like Temporary Assistance to Needy Families instead of an actual source of major expenditures. There is absolutely no constituency demanding meaningful and concrete cuts in government spending, therefore there is no political will to make those cuts. The only choice, then, is between Democrats who will make a token effort to increase taxes to offset spending and Republicans who will reduce taxes even further while spending just as much.

  93. instead of cutting social security, how about raising taxes enough to pay? We certainly can afford it, especially in the long run, even if difficult in the short run due to recession. The real problem is not spending per-se, but spending without being willing to pay for it. And this is NOT just true for social programs; Bush brought us into two expensive major wars (claiming they were essential for our security and freedom) without asking us to pay for them.

  94. "The Tea Party is a grass-roots movement — wild, woolly and chaotic — which sometimes makes it hard to figure out exactly what it stands for. But to the extent that the movement boasts a single animating idea, it’s the conviction that the Republicans as much as the Democrats have been an accessory to the growth of spending and deficits..."

    These two statements are objectively false, and are easily refuted by a few minutes on search engines. The so-called Tea Party is emphatically NOT grass-roots: it's almost entirely funded by a very small network of billionaires and right-wing foundations dedicated to the destruction of our society in the name of marginally increasing their already ludicrous wealth. Hotel rooms at gatherings such as Glenn Beck's appropriation of Martin Luther King were heavily subsidized by this small number of wealthy donors. And the single animating movement of the so-called Tea Partiers has nothing to do with the deficit: if it did, these people would have protested George W. Bush's tax cuts and wars much more vehemently than anything Mr. Obama has done. The Tea Party has been amply documented to be indistinguishable from the conservative Republican base, who have always catered to the interests of the super-rich against their own interests, and whose single animating movement is fear and loathing of the black man in the White House.

    You're bearing false witness, in a national newspaper, and in doing so you're doing us all a disservice.

  95. My friend, the last fiscally responsible Republican was President Dwight Eisenhower. The apparachniks and running dog lackey's of the Right Wing Business Interests think that fiscal responsibility is to let the rich avoid their responsibilities to the common weal and to let our infrastructure degrade while Big Business builds in foreign countries where the lack of USA oversight and regulation allows them to do what they want.

    They would not have that freedom if they undertook infrastructure projects in the USA - their profit margins would be smaller because they would have to produce quality.

    So sad.

  96. If the Tea Parties can succeed in stiffening the Republicans' spine about addressing real budget-cutting by reforming entitlements,perhaps the Democrats need a liberal Tea Party to force it to admit that middle-class taxes will need to rise once the economy starts stirring. Ultimate across-the-board truth-telling might arrive when both parties admit that it will take at least five years for the economy to revive and for unemployment to return to reasonable levels. At some point reality needs to be faced by both parties, but my fear is that while Tea Partiers want change, politicians are capable only of fake gestures.

  97. Tax every income one hundred fifty thousand dollars at prenineteen eighties rates. It is time that the well to do start paying for the privilege to live and to work or not in this great country. It is an outrage that the tax rate that they pay is only a few percentage points above my tax rate on an income which is many times smaller than theirs. My dollars cannot compete with their dollars in the free markets because the their tax free dollars drive prices up.

  98. Sorry, Ross. The 'animating idea' of the Tea Party is that when White House is occupied by a white conservative, they all stay home, but when a black man is President, even though he acts a lot like the previous one, they march around waving signs about the 'destruction' of 'our way of life.' Government spending is just another racially-coded term: Tea Partiers (like most conservatives) believe the government taxes whites in order to spend vast sums on minorities, and that cutting taxes will end this injustice, solve the deficit, and cure baldness. It's just Reagan's 'welfare queens' all over again. That this notion is a fantasy is proven by the Pledge's inability to identify any cuts in spending that would significantly reduce the budget problem.

  99. The last paragraph sums it all up very nicely. Actually, the GOP's new manifesto doesn't really go far enough, but it's a good start. Government bloat, the size of government and salaries and bennies for government workers is totally out of control. We must join together to reverse this trend, or else the paracites will destroy the host body of producers in this country.

  100. Ross, let's get real. The Tea Partiers believe in deficit reduction but they want the government to "keep it's hands off [their] Medicare." They believe in deficit reduction but they want more and more tax cuts, even for millionaires. I would call them hypocrites, but that would be too charitable - they are mostly too ignorant and confused to even realize the contradictions in their views. They are defined more by anti-government paranoia and hatred of our first black president than by any coherent political or economic philosophy. How pathetic that this is the group you look to for solutions to the nation's deepest problems.

  101. Ross, you have it wrong. We liberals don't characterize Republican Tea Party candidates as extreme because they cling to odd and proved-to-be failure notions about fiscal responsibility. This liberal democrat would love to see our country get on a better financial footing even if hard choice have to be made. We characterize them as extreme because Rand Paul thinks the Civil Rights Act should be repealed. We characterize them as extreme because Christine O'Donnell doesn't believe in evolution and wonders why, if evolution is true, we don't see monkeys turning into humans before our eyes. We characterize them as extreme because Sharron Angle thinks autism is a scam for people to get money from the government. We characterize them as extreme because their approach to government and life is based on fear, paranoia and rage and they present themselves with a peculiar form of proudly unintelligent self-confidence. These are but a few examples of why we characterize them as extreme.

  102. To me, the Tea Partiers are the ultimate free-lunchers, epitomized by the senior holding the health care debate protest sign "Hands off my Medicare." When they and the Republicans get off their "common sense solutions"--which tend more often to illustrate Einstein's dictum that, for every problem, there is a solution that is simple, obvious, and wrong--and figure out that it'll take hard work and sacrifice to dig out of the hole their precious ideology has dug for everyone, then I might be willing to listen. Until that time, they're noise and I wish they'd just go away or shut up or both. Because they're not helping the situation, or contributing to the debate.

  103. "But to the extent that the movement boasts a single animating idea, it’s the conviction that the Republicans as much as the Democrats have been an accessory to the growth of spending and deficits, and that the Republican establishment needs to be punished for straying from fiscal rectitude."

    That's true, but shall we unpack that statement a bit? Or translate, if you will? The vast majority of Tea Party types are most concerned with a particular type of spending. They're not worried about defense spending, and while they may bluster about car company and bank bailouts, that's a minor issue for them. They're most concerned with tax revenues being spent to care for, educate and police people who are not white. Period; that's it, that's all.

  104. Don't pay any attention to what we've done, are currently doing, and will most certainly do again, just listen to what we "pledge".
    One would hope that results have consequences, but we do have a tendency to have the attention span of gnats, so this latest political ploy may very well have some traction.
    The pledge seems a bit tame and rather wonkily programmatic for the tea party crowd, though. I doubt it will casue much excitement among them and they'll all be voting for Republicans anyway.

  105. "And as everybody knows, the only way to really bring the budget into balance is to reform (i.e., cut) Medicare and Social Security ..."

    Everybody knows what!? I thought everybody knew that Social Security does not contribute one single dollar to our debt or deficit! Any shortfall the program faces can easily be fixed. If you cut the program you might as well end it, and personally, I'd be in favor of hanging anyone who suggest that.

    Medicare is a true problem. However the biggest obstacle to correcting it is that politicians seem to require any fixes preserve the vast piles of cash it provides to the corporate parasites who've attached themselves to the system.

    The first steps toward solutions to our budget problems should be campaign finance reform, so we get away from electing people who turn out to be wholly owned corporate shills, and getting rid of pundits who are just more of the same.

  106. No, we don't need to cut Social Security and Medicare; stop stating opinions as if they are proven fact. At the very least, do the intellectual work to make a reasoned argument, which means do your research. If we cut the defense department (dept. of war is a better name), that would solve a lot of financial worries. And if we insisted that corporations and the very wealthy pay their fair share, problem solved.

  107. "...[A]s everybody knows, the only way to really bring the budget into balance is to reform (i.e., cut) Medicare and Social Security."

    Simply untrue.

    What changed the Clinton surplus to the Bush deficits were $200 billion per year in tax cuts for the rich and a $500 billion per year increase in military spending.

    Undo those things and voila, back to responsible government.

    Thank you, anyway, for speaking the truth about Republican "free lunchism", which has poisoned the American political culture as much as the racist, nativist venom lately spouted by Beck, Palin and company.

  108. Fiscal responsibility is one thing, policy responsibility is another. Only fools dislike either but the one big glaring defect in our system is the disconnect between good policy and good fiscal control -- this is called the corrupted "political" system. When moneyed interests have political control as they do now we can expect more of what we have -- decisions made not for the public interest and to promote fairness or full employment but rather decisions made to concentrate more wealth into the hands of the already wealthy. This is a fact and it has lead to the bank/financial frauds and taxpayer bailouts. We really need full and exclusive PUBLIC funding of elections. Billionaires have wrecked the country's finances with their greed and moneyed control. Let's democratize our "democracy" and get rid of money-collecting elections.

  109. In addition to the author's uneducated assertions about Social Security and Medicare, that they need to be cut to fix them. He goes on to describe the Tea Party as "... a vocal, activist constituency for spending cuts at a time when politicians desperately need to have their spines stiffened on the issue."

    The whole world should be aware by now that the Tea Party was brought into existence by private interests who have been trying to kill the vitality of our government for decades. Those interests who are manufacturing fear and misleading a large portion of our population to vote against their own interests are probably the greatest single threat our country faces. When our founders talked about the dangers the country would face from within, this is what they meant.

    Again, about Social Security or Medicare cuts... My car is running rough and lacks power. Which is the best fix? Remove the fenders and hood to lighten it's load, or remove the passenger seats and use pillows?

  110. The problem with the "starve the beast" approach is that it creates "crisis politics" -- namely, it forces Congress to make cuts arbitrary urgency, as we saw Gingrich et al tried to do back in the attempted government shutdown in the 90s.

    Cutting spending needs to be done lucidly, and with an eye to quality. Urgent cuts are likely to target small voting minorities or "functional but dispassionate" legislation such as banking oversight during the Bush years, while avoiding many of the bloated expenses that the bulk of us rely upon like military expenditures and medicare.

    If you want to lose 20 pounds in a week, its best to exercise a little fat off every body part. You don't chop off an arm and call it a day.

  111. I take exception to the idea that "everybody knows" we have to cut Medicare and Social Security to restore solvency to the federal government. Not one penny should be taken from these programs until we do something about the 700-plus military facilities we have in 130 countries and the money that the horribly bloated "defense" establishment has sucked out of the middle class ever since Eisenhower warned us about that. We have already lost our democracy to Lockheed and Halliburton--must we lose our economy as well?

  112. The Tea Party represents the nuts on the pie the Republican Party wishes to serve to big business. Conservative activism has created an out of control Supreme Court catering to business as if it had the rights of the People. Conservative radicals have worked for the government subsidies for corporations that caused this depression.
    Better a party that carries the 'Don't Tread On Me' motto to keep government out of the constitutional separation of Church and State and the rights of all citizens. With big money buying elections and elected representation, we need to go back to the response of the Stamp Act: No Taxation Without Representation in Congress.

  113. How many comments do you need to remind you of the need to cut corporate welfare? The military-industrial complex, trucking-highway lobby, the petrochemical industry, and so on. Also, I confess I don't have a recent update, but for years the biggest crop support check went to those "family farmers" , the Northern Trust Bank in Chicago, e.g. These are all supported by our taxes. But lets attack social security, which many people have contributed to for most of their lives. It used to be a dedicated fund, but as best I can tell is going to be in trouble in no small part due to the fact the fund has been raided for general tax purposes.

    Jonathan Swift would have a field day with today's Republican party (which used to be mine).

  114. The absolute truth behind the Fox News creation of the Tea Party is the demand for power by the corporate conservatives and the irrational racism of the white semi-literates that fill up the rallies and support the candidates. While the candidates from Palin on down represent a real threat to win elections, they should not be taken seriously as policy spokespersons. They, should they assume office, will work as fronts for their corporate benefactors. Regardless of their speeches, news interviews, or sound-bites, these individuals have little to no experience or ability to lead or govern in a responsible manner. They must be taken seriously not as individuals, but as false faces of corporate manipulators. It is these powerful and wealthy donors who are the ultimate strength behind this so-called Tea Party Movement. They called the "shots" during the Bush-Cheney administration, and plan to resume that role as soon as they can put in place those puppets who will do their bidding. Ms. Angle, Ms. O'Donnell and their ilk are not really looking to be anything other than funnels for the interests of those powerful individuals and groups who can propel them into positions they are entirely unqualified to fill. Failing to address this aspect of this political phenomenon betrays the integrity of Mr. Douthat, the NY Times, and the rest of the Mainstream Media.

  115. Believing that the Tea Party "movement" is a grass-roots movement that somehow spontaneously emerged from the people is naive to the extreme. These kinds of things never happen without financing. It is clear that conventions and conferences don't just happen and are expensive. The American public has always been easy to mislead, something that P.T. Barnum understood well and that Limbaugh & Beck et al have taken to an art form. The money is coming from wealthy self-indulgent people like the Koch Bros. who are convincing people who want to be convinced that Obama is "the Other" to take action which is against their own interests. Never underestimate the power of ignorance. It is much easier to be against something than to take the time to understand the issues and to act rationally.

  116. Tea partiers would be best advised to form a platform of their own. Republicans' interesting in "fiscal rectitude" has always just been window dressing. Their primary goals have always been (1) Gain power (2) hold power (3) make lots of money along the way.

    Given their economic rhetoric, their incompetence once in office is astounding. Deficits grow more and the economy grows less.

  117. We, more than 89 millions working poor Caucasians may not connected to the rich and powerful, we may not have a voice in congress, and they are no lobbist working on our behalf, but we are the backbone of America, WE are tea partiers, we are plumbers, truck drivers, customer service reps, hair dresses, chefs, trash collectors, postal workers, funeral directors, fire fighters, jail guards, flight attendents, luggage handlers, Radio/TV station technicians, cashiers, new/used car salesmen, etc, etc.
    We will prevail for sure, because we can't live paycheck to paycheck forever.

  118. We have, at the present moment a divided government, the partisan component of democracy. China has the advantage of a united government. We outsourced our industry and debt to China. The future belongs to them. The past belongs to us. Not much different than the British Empire. Long live the Queen.

  119. "Democrats are eager to paint these candidates [Angle, Miller, Paul, O'Donnell, and Rubio] as dangerously extreme."

    Wrong again, Douthat. The candidates' own words paint them as dangerously extreme.

    The GOP's new-found love for "fiscal responsibility" suspiciously coincides with their loss of control of congress. It's easy to preach abstinence when you know you don't have the purse strings. We've seen what a GOP president and congress can do to a nation's financial stability. There is absolutley no reason to believe they wouldn't do exactly the same thing again, if we're dumb enough to fall for the hooey in thier "pledge" stunt.

  120. "And as everybody knows, the only way to really bring the budget into balance is to reform (i.e., cut) Medicare and Social Security...."
    Great idea! What happens to future retirees? Especially, what happens to the older unemployed?

    Here's an idea. Since health care costs are already the highest in the world with no end in sight, how about reining in all the inefficiencies in the system? Other industrialized countries have better population health outcomes and greater longevity at less cost. Oh, I forgot, the Republicans are against health care reform.

    Well then, we could increase payments into the Social Security system by raising the cap on FICA taxes. Another non-starter by Republican ideology.

    So where's a realistic and comprehensive plan? Pie in the sky won't do and shaking fists at the moon doesn't work either.

    I'm listening....Paul Ryan? Ross Douthat? Anyone out there?

  121. Social Security was reformed in 1983 when Reagan appointed a commission led by Alan Greenspan which recommended that (1) the retirement age with full benefits be increased, (2) the benefits for early retirees be reduced and (3) benefits for those with substantial other income be taxed. All of this was done. Reductions Medicare spending largely center on reducing reimbursement rates for providers. The problem with this is that it can be offset by performing unneeded services.--And why is the Defense Budget off limits for Mr. Douthat? Is there nothing there that needs to be cut? As usual, Mr. Douthat never really likes to get in the substance of the matter. Perhaps he should read Paul Krugman's columns or talk to him in person.

  122. I disagree with this less than I usually disagree with Mr. Douthat's opinions. Where we part company is the idea that Medicare and Social Security are the places to cut.

    I want my country to trying to govern the entire world. I want it to quit sending computers to Iraqi students, computers that are stolen the moment they arrive in Iraq. I want us to quit trying to right every international wrong, while studiously ignoring injustice and poverty at home. I want us to quit waging war for the benefit of large corporations.

    The terrorists are winning because we are so stupid. They must have looked at out history and decided that all it would take to bring us down would be one hard blow, after which our own militarism, greed, and narcissism would take care of the rest. Were they right?

  123. There is no substance in the Republicans pledge to America. And if there were, why would anyone believe these members of Congress have changed?

    Thirty years of Reaganomics have given us 13 trillion in debt, a recession that leaves millions without work, and a wealthy elite that Republicans want to reward with even more wealth.

    What in the pledge would make a bit of difference in the mess the GOP has made of our economy? Continuing failed policies would likely make the situation far worse.

  124. What about the large number of Americans who have plenty of data to back us up and who believe the cuts should target other bloated areas of the budget than entitlements? Even many Republicans finally acknowledge that entitlements have become whipping boys. So let's hear first about the other perps.

    Let's look at who is paying for all the tea party noise. Aren't the movement's biggest supporters some of the biggest offenders in their dependence on powerful lobbyists, tax loopholes, Congressional favoritism, and unnecessary defense expenditures?

  125. Seems we ended the last deperssion by spending on both the New Deal and WWII at a rate in today's dollars of 22 trillion. That government action, not only won a war, but ended a depression and helped create the US middle class. After the war we grew our way out of debt. Austerity will prolong the recession and hurt the working class. A recession does have one silver lining, it helps create deflation, good if you alreay have money anc cheap labor, again, boosting profits.