Understanding the debate about raising the debt ceiling, and imagining the economic crisis that will follow if Congress fails to do so, is really very simple.
COURTING CALAMITY The Tea Party's "cut, cap and balance" plan could throw the world economy
into a Great Depression-like meltdown.
Tea Party Republicans — a national political minority, and a minority even within their own party — are the problem. They not only refuse to compromise, they passed a radical right-wing plan innocuously called "cut, cap, and balance."
This plan would turn back the political clock by at least 150 years, and cripple the federal government's ability to function.
In the midst of the worst economic crisis of our lifetime, it would spell disaster.
The Tea Party policy is remarkably similar to the strategy pursued by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin in the early stages of the Russian Revolution: make bad things worse to increase the chances of seizing power.
Mitt Romney, the alleged mainstream presidential hopeful, has endorsed the idea, demonstrating once again that no debasement is too humiliating for the former Massachusetts governor in his quest for the GOP nomination.
Most other Republican White House hopefuls did the same, highlighting the cheap-horror-movie quality of right-wing politics: Tea Partiers from outer space will be born again after drinking the blood of the jobless outside a Planned Parenthood clinic.
But let's return to reality: cut, cap, and balance is going nowhere. As this newspaper goes to press, it is expected to be rejected by the Senate.
It is significant because, while President Barack Obama has tacked to the right in the hopes of establishing a new middle where compromise might be reached, the Republicans have likewise moved right, becoming at first more conservative, then radically destructive.
The most recent opinion polls show Americans are disappointed with both parties, but increasingly impatient with Republicans. Those same polls also show that, among Republicans, sentiment is running against the Tea Party.
Nevertheless, the Tea Party Bolsheviks remain the most vocal and visible elements of their party. Mainstream GOP leaders appear to lack the courage to confront them, or the wit to outmaneuver them.
What is hard to discern is which the Tea Partiers hate more: government or Obama?
On the Senate side, it looks as if the grand bargain brokered by the "Gang of Six" will move forward.
It is better than nothing, but pathetically vague. The grand bargain calls for significant cuts in military and discretionary spending, as well as savings in Medicare, but targets only broad numbers, leaving the real figures to be determined later. It also closes some tax loopholes to gain revenue.
This will never pass in the House.
So, as the clock ticks down to the August 2 deadline, it looks as if deadlock is the order of the day.
It may well require a stock-market crash to wake Congress up and scare its ignorant intransigents to action.
That's what happened with the much-derided but still successful stimulus bill, without which the nation's high unemployment rate would be even higher.
This is a treacherous time for the Tea Party minority to be playing Russian roulette with America's future. And it is wildly irresponsible for those who claim the mantle of Republican leadership to let them get away with it.