Published: The Express Times (July 28, 2011)
Even though I am hardly a fan of the disproportionate influence of big businesses in our government, the reality is that the vast majority of them don’t want a default any more than centrists, leftists and moderate conservatives.
The blame here rests entirely with the Tea Party and their enablers in Congress, all of whom stand alone in their unwillingness to compromise in the name of the greater national good.
Indeed, although I can think of plenty of financial crises that were deliberately perpetrated by specific individuals and institutions (Nicholas Biddle causing a bank panic in the summer of 1833; James Fisk and Jay Gould cornering the gold market in 1869; the Wall Street derivatives traders from the 2000s), this is the first instance in which a large political movement has deliberately sabotaged the American economy.
Please note that I’m not saying that past political movements haven’t inadvertently harmed our country in this manner. What I’m pointing out is that, in the past, the occasions in which political and financial agency was exercised to knowingly destroy our economy took place because a handful of men and women (OK, usually men) did so in the name of power and/or profit.
For the first time in American history, it is a large ideological group that is willfully causing a massive economic crisis. What’s worse, that ideology seems to be best summed up by Earl Warren’s observation about how “many people consider the things government does for them to be social progress but regard the things government does for others as socialism.”
This goes a long way toward reinforcing the fact that there is something fundamentally immature about the Tea Party. Because Tea Partiers overwhelmingly tend to be white, Christian and more affluent than the average American, their claim to being victimized by the government — and specifically by regulations and taxes — is deluded at best and downright disingenuous at worst.
In that respect, they remind me of children who throw temper tantrums when their parents won’t buy them a new toy (an offense of which I was occasionally guilty — although in my defense, I was 5).
Even though they act like their plight is inconceivably terrible, and express that conviction with equal parts anger and hyperbole, their sturm und drang must never be mistaken for a valid case. If you even pay attention to them, much less cede to their demands, you grant them a legitimacy they don’t deserve … and, more important, which society can’t afford.
That is where my analogy between spoiled children and Tea Partiers falls apart. Whereas the former are merely obnoxious, the latter strive to inflict suffering on the unemployed and working poor, oppress those with cultural values that differ from their own and deliberately destroy entire economic systems when their pettiest demands aren’t granted in every way, shape and form.
All in all, I’d rather give political influence to the problem child than the Tea Party.
Matthew Rozsa, of Forks Township, is a graduate student in history at Rutgers University, Newark. He can be reached at email@example.com.