The tea party Republicans have drawn a line in the sand. The debt ceiling was raised five times during the administration of President George W. Bush. Yet, it is only now, with tea party Republicans holding the balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives, that America is placed in the position of defaulting on our commitments, for the first time since the founding of our country.
Their irresponsible position is that corporations and billionaires should not have to share the sacrifices needed to keep our economy on track for recovery. That is why they vehemently oppose efforts to cut corporate welfare and to eliminate subsidies for the oil companies. Unlike most Americans, who believe we should pull together to find real solutions, these politicians are intent on dividing Americans by destroying programs that have broad public support. At the same time, they have done all in their power to create instability in the economy and put more Americans out of work.
With more than 14 million Americans out of the job market, it is appalling for these politicians to play games with our nation’s economy. Creating jobs and keeping Americans working have to be top priorities. But for the tea party Republicans controlling the House of Representatives, those are far from the top of their “to-do” list. Instead, they have repeatedly passed bills that would put more Americans out of work. A harsh conclusion, perhaps, but just look at the facts:
Since the tea party took over the U.S. House of Representatives in January 2011, they have pushed legislation which, if enacted, would have added more than 6.5 million additional workers to the unemployment rolls:
• The Economic Policy Institute estimates that nearly 1 million jobs would have been lost if their 2011 appropriations bill had been enacted.
• Their bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act would have cut as many as 400,000 jobs annually, according to the Center for American Progress.
• And the Ryan Budget they passed, which destroys Medicare and Medicaid, student loan programs and health care research, would put as many as 3 million more workers out of their jobs during the next five years.
Thankfully, President Obama and cooler heads in the Senate have kept these job-killing bills from becoming law. But they all passed the tea party-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.
Tea party politicians have been ramming through similar misguided bills at the state and local level. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, John Kasich in Ohio, Chris Christie in New Jersey and Rick Scott in Florida are just a few of the elected officials who have pushed policies to put people out of work. All of them turned down federal funding for transportation projects that could have produced hundreds of thousands of jobs. And they have ruthlessly cut budgets rather than ask billionaires in their states to pay their fair share of taxes. Their actions are hurting job creation, even in the private sector. As economist Adam Hirsch noted on the website Think Progress last month: “States that cut spending are seeing significantly more job losses in the private sector than states maintaining or increasing spending levels.”
In the last Congress, tea party Republicans consistently voted to increase unemployment. In August of 2010, for example, every tea party-backed politician in Congress voted against legislation to provide assistance to the states to pay for teachers, firefighters and vital public services. If they had their way, 300,000 additional jobs would have been lost, adding to the more than 500,000 state and local jobs that have been lost in recent years. The next time a tea party politician tells you that jobs are what they care about, remind them that if it had been up to them, every auto worker at General Motors would be out of work today. And what about the jobs saved or created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act? They opposed the bill kicking and screaming, yet every thinking economist in the country agrees that it saved or created anywhere from to 2 to 4 million jobs.
While they consistently pay lip service to “reducing the debt,” that is not their real goal. Their tax cuts for corporate CEOs and hedge fund managers actually increase our debt. As FactCheck.org, under Ryan’s plan “the public debt would increase from $10 trillion in 2011 to $16 trillion in 2021,” even while decimating essential programs for Main Street Americans. That’s because Ryan adds to his Draconian cuts with even larger tax giveaways to his friends on Wall Street. (Ryan wasn’t drinking tea with his Wall Street pals last week. He and two companions spent $700 on two bottles of wine at a Capitol Hill restaurant.)
One is tempted to conclude that the tea party Republicans see political benefit from increasing unemployment while President Obama is at the helm. Michelle Bachmann, in an unguarded moment last week, admitted as much. Whatever their motivation, their policy choices do not reflect the Main Street values shared by most Americans.
It is clear, however, that many of them are willing to tip the country into a double-dip recession and put the world economy into a tailspin. They are, as Warren Buffett said last week, “playing Russian roulette.” And if that leads to more unemployment, apparently the tea party Republicans really don’t care.