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“Tea Party Downgrade”? They Can’t Possibly Sell That

The downgrading of U.S. debt is an extreme embarrassment for the government in general, and the Obama administration in particular. So the administration has reacted in the only way it knows: by denouncing Standard & Poors, and by blaming its political opponents, the supporters of the Tea Party, for the downgrade.

The administration’s knee-jerk responses are somewhat inconsistent: if S&P was wrong to downgrade the debt, and the downgrade was based on a mathematical error, then it is hard to see how the downgrade can also be the Tea Party’s fault. (In the legal world, this is known as pleading in the alternative: when sued for borrowing a neighbor’s pot and breaking it, the defendant answers that he never borrowed the pot; the pot was never broken; and the pot was already broken when he borrowed it.)

Of the administration’s alternative theories, the most ludicrous is the claim that the Tea Party, the one group dedicated to doing something about the nation’s spending and debt crisis, is somehow to blame for it. Yet this is the theory that President Obama’s political adviser, David Axelrod, tried to sell on Face the Nation this morning:

Mr. Obama’s longtime political adviser, David Axelrod, made clear that Democrats would seek to brand the rating as a “Tea Party downgrade.” He said Mr. Obama had been willing to compromise on issues sacred to liberals by curbing spending on entitlements, but the deal foundered because “Republicans are having to respond to this very, very strident group that is pulling them away and believes that compromise is a dirty word. That is a prescription for failure.”

Put aside for a moment the fact that Obama’s willingness to compromise was entirely theoretical; never did he put such a compromise plan on the table. His FY 2012 budget proposal was anything but a compromise; it included no entitlement reform and projected massive deficits for as far as the eye could see, and therefore received not a single vote in Congress.

What is most ludicrous is the Democrats’ effort to distract attention from the fact that they controlled Congress from January 2007 until January 2011. The first Congress that had any ability to be influenced by the Tea Party movement has been in office for only six months. Do the Democrats seriously expect anyone to believe that S&P’s downgrade of U.S. debt arises out of something that Republican Congressmen have done in the last six months? We expect the Democrats to appeal to ignorance at all times, but this is ridiculous.

Let’s take a walk down memory lane. What did the Democrats do with respect to federal debt during the four years they controlled both Houses of Congress? Here is a summary of the deficits the Democrats racked up during that time:

FY 2008 — $460 billion
FY 2009 — $1,410 billion ($1.4 trillion)
FY 2010 — $1,300 billion ($1.3 trillion)
FY 2011 — $1,600 (estimated) ($1.6 trillion)

Of the $14.5 trillion national debt, nearly $4.8 trillion–one-third of the total–was incurred during that four-year period when the Congress was exclusively controlled by the Democrats. Moreover, and equally important, during that time the Democrats did nothing to assure the markets that they have a long-term plan to deal with the country’s burgeoning debt. On the contrary, for more than two years the Congressional Democrats have refused to adopt or even to propose a budget! If you are looking for the reason why rating agencies have lost faith in the ability of our government to get its spending and debt under control, you need look no farther.

Poll data suggest that the Democrats have succeeded, to a considerable degree, in demonizing the Tea Party movement. That success has no doubt emboldened them to try to lay their own failures at the Tea Party’s door. But it is hard to believe that even the dimmest voters will fall for the idea that the movement that was founded in order to do something about the spending and debt crisis is somehow to blame for that crisis.

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