Why The Tea Party Can Hold The Country Hostage

Posted by | July 16, 2011 10:47 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

By now it is clear that the view that a deficit deal needs to include no revenue increases is a view held by a minority of Americans.  Polls estimate this minority between 20 and 30 percent.  As Nate Silver explains:

If we do take the Republicans’ no-new-taxes position literally, it isn’t surprising that the negotiations have broken down. Consider that, according to the Gallup poll, Republican voters want the deal to consist of 26 percent tax increases, and Democratic voters 46 percent — a gap of 20 percentage points. If Republicans in the House insist upon zero tax increases, there is a larger ideological gap between House Republicans and Republican voters than there is between Republican voters and Democratic ones.

So this minority view is destroying the chance to really deal with the deficit and instead it looks like we will get a lame workaround that will make no one happy.  Why?

It is tempting to fault moneyed interests.  But the moneyed interests here don’t want a default.  Instead there are two political process problems.  The first is that gerrymandering has gotten so sophisticated because of technology that the number of safe Republican (and Democratic) districts has multiplied.  This means that there is a large group in the House that doesn’t have to worry about what most voters want, only what the median voter in their party in their conservative district wants.  There are enough of such members that Boehner fears for his job if he doesn’t appease them.  The second of course is the need for 60 votes in the Senate for any measure, something the founders never envisioned.  Without these changes we won’t get real reform, just gridlock and debt as far as the eye can see.

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Copyright 2011 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.

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