Now that the long, protracted and bitterly partisan battle over the Federal deficit reduction act has been signed into law, it appears that the public has not been fooled by all of the rhetoric that the Tea Party wing has forced upon the Congressional Republicans and the nation as a whole. Rather than focusing on legislation to create jobs and business opportunities by stimulating our declining economy with programs such as those to repair our crumbling infrastructures, the Republican strategy is to distract public attention by demanding that the nation’s deficit should be the highest priority.
While that message may resonate with their own constituencies, reducing government spending is the last thing leading economists have called for again and again. The “austerity” message is being seen as a slight of hand maneuver to lock in massive spending reductions and entitlement program cuts with a deficit reduction package that, for the first time in American history, did not include any revenue increases.
In fact, economists cannot point to a single instance in world history where an austerity program has brought a nation in economic crisis back from a declining economy. Mostly recently, Great Britain moved in that direction and has suffered through three straight quarters of zero growth—that is how well their austerity program is doing.
The American public has not been fooled. Shortly after the deficit reduction act was signed into law, a record 82 percent of those surveyed in a New York Times/CBS poll disapproved about how Congress is doing its job. This is the lowest approval rating since the Times began posing this question in 1977.
More than four out of five of those polled said that the debt ceiling debate was more about gaining political advantage than doing what is best for the nation. Nearly three-quarters said that the debate has harmed the United States’ image in the world.
The public’s opinion of the Tea Party movement has now soured. The party is now viewed unfavorably by 40 percent and favorably by just 20 percent. Forty-three percent now think that the Tea Party has too much influence over the Republican Party, up from 27 percent in mid-April.
The Times speculated that perhaps shortly after the party won congressional seats, many people did not know who they were and what they were all about. Now, it is clear what they are seeking to do in pushing their agenda forward and it is creating public angst about our nation’s future direction.
As the second phase of the debt reduction process moves forward, the issue will be whether voters, especially Independent voters, want Congress and the President to compromise and find solutions. The House Republicans may the gloating over the “victory” they achieved in bringing the nation to the precipice of a default, but it is clear that the voters have little respect for Congress and the major influencing factor may be whether the Tea Party will still drive the debate.
As we continue our fight, we need to educate voters about this ugly wedge and motivate them to vote.