The squabbling in Congress over raising the federal debt limit pushed the nation to the very brink of a colossal financial train wreck, and, arguably, greatly contributed to the recent downgrade of the United States’ credit rating. Millions of people, not only in America but also around the world, will be adversely affected by this congressional impasse; an impasse caused by a faction of Congress whose entrenched, unassailable belief systems render them incapable of or unwilling to compromise.
The Republican Party has become so susceptible to possession by ideological demons that it needs a full-time exorcist. Most recently the GOP has been possessed by the Tea Party, whose crusade to bring immediate frugality to a profligate federal government has conjured up this crisis.
While the unyielding dedication of the Tea Party to rescue the nation from the federal government’s spending addiction is admirable, cold turkey is not always the safest form of intervention in an addiction. That method causes severe, sometimes lethal, suffering. The more rational, humane method to break an addiction is gradual withdrawal. In this case that means compromise, apparently something that is anathema to the obdurate Tea Party. True believers can not make a deal with the devil.
In defense of the Tea Party, the nation has not been well served by the two-party system. Democrats and Republicans are simply different sides of the same tarnished coin. Both have increased the size of government and diminished personal freedom. The current $14 trillion national debt was incurred by this duopoly — each party catering to its particular clienteles and more concerned with staying in power than in governing wisely.
The fundamental economic ideologies of both parties are flawed. The Republicans tout free-market capitalism and trickle-down economics as the only way to create and distribute wealth. In practice, however, this approach mostly enriches the established elite while it fosters soulless, monopolistic corporate greed that preys on society and ravages the environment.
Democrats, on the other hand, seem to think that anyone who creates wealth has an obligation to provide for the welfare of everyone else — regardless of legitimate need or limited resources. As we have witnessed with the former Soviet Union and now with Greece, Italy and other European countries, big hunker socialist systems eventually collapse under the weight of entitlement greed.
Nothing remains pure in politics. Eventually, any political movement becomes self-serving, corrupt and effete. The Republican and Democrat parties have long ago descended into that gutter. Increasingly, Americans are realizing this and are looking for alternatives. That is why so many Tea Party candidates were elected to Congress in the last national election.
When things get as bad as they are now, in American politics a disruptive force is needed to incite revolutionary change and induce renaissance. The antics of the Tea Party in Congress are a manifestation of disruptive politics.
And, bless their fiery hearts and frozen brains, these Tea Party folks are trying to do what they believe is best for the nation. They are just brutally clumsy about it, and, unfortunately, as they stubbornly stand their ground on seismic soil, they may inadvertently pull a lot of folks into the chasm with them.
What America needs is a party of reason whose only ideology is common sense; a party that understands that effective government in a large, diverse nation like this one requires a certain philosophical agility and Solomonic wisdom.
Fixed ideologies do not always reconcile to reality. We need common sense, and compromise to find solutions to multifarious problems. This is no longer frontier America with vast tracks of free land and a small population. Nor is it booming post-World War II America with lots of blue-collar jobs and growing paychecks.
Somewhere between unrestrained free-market capitalism and insatiable entitlement socialism there is a workable compromise. Somewhere between suffocating paternalistic government and laissez-faire anarchy there is an acceptable balance. Surely, there are reasonable minds somewhere in America, but apparently few in the duopoly.
Think about a party of reason. It might be founded on the Internet. If a college kid with an ax to grind against an ex-girlfriend can create the juggernaut that is Facebook, can’t we create a party of reason? After all, we have a much bigger ax to grind.