For the past few weeks, I’ve been scratching my head about why a minority faction of one of our two political parties seems so determined to shut the government down.
This group of extremists, known as “Tea Party Republicans,” doesn’t seem to care about the damage a shutdown will do to our fragile economy or confidence in our government. They also don’t seem to care that the larger party they are members of, the once-admired Republican Party, will be tarnished by their selfish, irresponsible behaviour.
Instead, the Tea Party extremists just say that, because they don’t like a particular piece of legislation, they are justified in shutting the whole government down.
Grandstanding and brinksmanship are one thing, but the extremists who now control the Republican Party don’t seem to be engaging in grandstanding and brinksmanship. Rather, they appear to be arguing that, any time a minority faction of our government is not given everything it wants by the rest of the government, it is acceptable to shut the government down. If this view of our government becomes accepted as non-crazy behaviour, life in this country is going to get interesting in the next few years.
Anyway, this position and attitude has been mystifying to me:
Why engage in selfish, irresponsible behaviour, hurt America and Americans, and destroy your political party’s brand when you don’t have to? Especially when even the Tea Party admits that the shutdown threat no longer has anything to do with the national debt!
My colleagues have explained two of the reasons, namely that 1) Voting districts have been so successfully gerrymandered that Tea Party extremists are assured of being reelected even if they behave like selfish, irresponsible lunatics, and 2) the country has become more conservative in recent years.
That helped me understand.
But now, on the eve of the shutdown, the “giddy” behaviour the Tea Party extremists are displaying is becoming even more comprehensible.
Because the first parts of the government that will be shut down are the parts of the government that the Tea Party extremists say they hate!
- The Environmental Protection Agency. The Tea Party extremists don’t care about the environment and hate the organisation dedicated to protecting it. So the fact that the EPA will have to furlough all but 1,069 of its 16,200 workers is great news to them. (Rebecca Ballhaus of the Wall Street Journal).
- The National Labour Relations Board. The Tea Party extremists hate the NLRB, which tries to make sure that the country’s workers are treated fairly. So it’s presumably awesome that the NLRB will furlough all but 11 of its 1,611 staffers. (WSJ)
- Food stamps for Women, Infants, and Children. The Tea Party extremists hate food stamps. So they’ll be happy a special federal “WIC” food stamps program will be shut down. (Some bad news for Tea Party folks here, though. The broader food stamps program will continue.) (USA Today)
- The Commodities Futures Trading Commission. The Tea Party extremists don’t think we should have industry rules or regulators, so the fact that only 8 of the CFTC’s 650 workers will come to work and get paid after the shutdown is downright exciting. (WSJ)
- National parks and museums will close. The Tea Party extremists don’t care about nature. And museums are for elitists. (WSJ)
- Internal Revenue Service audits. The Tea Party extremists hate, hate, hate the IRS. So they’ll be pleased that annoying IRS bureaucrats won’t be able to hassle free people and confiscate more money from them. Unfortunately, they’ll still owe taxes. And the IRS will still exist.
- The Census Bureau will stop collecting data. Who needs data? (WSJ)
- Applications for small-business loans won’t be processed. The Tea Party extremists don’t think the government should make small-business loans. (WSJ)
- And so on…
Meanwhile, the parts of the government that Tea Party extremists love will keep right on cranking:
- The military! Active duty service-members won’t get furloughed. Only some civilians. (Sorry, civilians, you don’t count. And you work for the government, so Tea Party extremists hate you.)
- Border security (yes!), the Coast Guard, federal law enforcement, the National Security Agency, and prison guards. There won’t be any cutbacks here. (Thankfully.)
- Laws. Most of the Justice Department will still come to work.
- Air traffic control and mail delivery.
The only bummer for the Tea Party extremists is that Social Security checks will still be delivered and Medicare bills will still be paid. The Tea Party extremists say they hate Social Security and Medicare, so this will be awkward for them.
But not that awkward. Because actual Americans like Social Security and Medicare, so the Tea Party extremists won’t have to explain to their constituents why the government checks that they love so much have stopped coming.
In short, the order in which the government will be shut down appears to be almost perfectly designed to have the Tea Party extremists be able to say that, after the shutdown, the country will be better off.
So now their selfish, irresponsible behaviour is actually starting to make sense!
And as BI Executive Editor Joe Weisenthal pointed out yesterday, this order of shutdown may make the shutdown last longer than it ordinarily would.
Because the Tea Party extremists will be able to say that they’re happy about the new status quo!
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