Popular Economics Weekly

The New York Times stated in a 2010 poll that the 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45. History tells us the last time white males were willing to destroy the economy and maybe country. It was the United States Civil War, of course. Then it was about such men attempting to preserve slavery and state rights. Today, it is about not giving more rights to minorities and the poor.

Then it was about the south, desperate to preserve their privileges, today those Tea Party Republicans are desperate to preserve their traditions of power—low taxes and small government—even though our modern economy can’t function without an effective government that makes the rules that allow financial markets as well as our overall society to function smoothly.

So they are now desperate enough to use the debt ceiling as their Weapon of Mass Destruction. Not okaying an increase means the government is shut down, as well as the U.S. financial system that depends on debt to finance operations. And there are those on the right, such as Tea Party Republican Ted Cruz that would like to see this happen.

“The debt ceiling historically has been among the best leverage that Congress has to rein in the executive,” said Cruz to CNN’s Candy Crowley recently. “There’s great historical precedent. Since 1978 we’ve raised the debt ceiling fifty-five times. A majority of those times, twenty-eight times, Congress has attached very specific and stringent requirements, many of the most significant spending restraints, things like Gramm Rudman [i.e. the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget Act], things like sequestration, came through the debt ceiling.”

The last Civil War cost some 600,000 lives. If prolonged, this civil war would cost millions of jobs. In a new report, the Treasury Department studied the economic fallout from a similar debt ceiling impasse in 2011 — when the nation came within days of defaulting on its obligations — and said that the country could see similar effects this year if lawmakers wait until the final hours to raise the debt ceiling.

“A default would be unprecedented and has the potential to be catastrophic: credit markets could freeze, the value of the dollar could plummet, U.S. interest rates could skyrocket, the negative spillovers could reverberate around the world, and there might be a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse,” the report said.

Yet as the New York Times reported, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups put together a plan to defund Obamacare in 2012.

“It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government.”

Yet this hasn’t sunk in to the general public, apparently. The 18 percent of the electorate, those Tea Party males, are willing to fight another civil war they cannot win, but could cause great damage to all of U.S.

So how long might this civil war last? “You’re here because now is the single best time we have to defund Obamacare,” declared Mr. Cruz, at a recent fundraiser. “This is a fight we can win.”

Will we need another Abe Lincoln to save this Union?

Harlan Green © 2013

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