StanCollender'sCapitalGainsandGames Washington, Wall Street and Everything in Between

Is The Federal Budget a Religion?

25 Feb 2011
Posted by Stan Collender

I grew up reading New York Magazine.  Hell...I can remember when it was just a Sunday supplement for the New York Herald Tribune.  I continued to be a subscriber long after I left NYC and moved first to California and then to Washington.  So it was a bit of a thrill to be quoted in this article about the GOP and the budget by Michelle Goldberg.  It was even better seeing CG&G's own Bruce Bartlett also being quoted.  Now if we can just get Andrew, Pete, and Gordon a little more ink...

Michelle's full story is below.  Needless to say, I agree compeltely that the feelings about the budget by many tea party types have a religion-like fervor.  As I've been saying for a while (most recently, here), that's what's makes so hard to make any progress.  If compromise is a sin, compromising becomes impossible.

The Rise of the Budget Fundamentalists
If you need a new passport, get one now. And you probably shouldn’t plan trips to any national parks in March. There’s a growing consensus that the government could be forced to shut down next month as emboldened Republicans demand spending cuts that Democrats can’t stomach, and that even some conservative experts say aren’t feasible.
GOP leaders don't seem eager for this outcome, but it might not be entirely up to them. Freshman Republicans, carried to power by the tea party surge, promised to slash $100 billion from the 2011 budget, and they’re determined to make good on that pledge, down to the penny. Also, with the fiscal year almost half over, such cuts would, as former Reagan adviser Bruce Bartlett has written, “mean abolishing just about every government function outside of entitlements, interest, and defense.” The populist disdain for experts — marked in debate over evolution and climate change — has entered economics. “The fact that we may be completely ignorant to the process here, God bless us, because our ignorance has just saved the American people more money,” Tim Scott, a freshman Republican from South Carolina, told CNN. What we are witnessing is the rise of a new strain of politician: the budget fundamentalist.
“What you’ve got to understand is this is an emotional issue, not a rational issue," says budget guru Stan Collender, a veteran of both House and Senate budget committees who puts the likelihood of a shutdown at 90 percent. “As far I can tell it has no theoretical economic underpinnings, which is why it’s so difficult for the budget these days to be discussed, because statistics don’t mean anything, equations don’t convince anybody. It is almost a religious belief.”
Perhaps more than “almost.” The tea party has a reputation for secularism, but in fact it’s deeply rooted in the religious right. The GOP’s tea party freshmen made their leanings clear by going after insurance coverage for abortion and funding for Planned Parenthood, but their faith informs their economic stance as well. “It's no coincidence that socialist Europe is post-Christian because the bigger the government gets the smaller God gets and vice versa,” Senator Jim DeMint, one of the Tea Party’s major Senate supporters, told the Christian Broadcasting Network last year.
Republican elites have encouraged this quasi-theological approach to economics. Last year, Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, published The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America’s Future, a book much discussed in right-wing circles. “America faces a new culture war,” Brooks argued. Instead of a fight over “guns, abortion, religion and gays,” it’s a struggle between American freedom and European statism.
Thus debt has come to replace homosexuality as a symbol for American decline, and the fervor of past culture wars is being deployed in budgetary battles. And things could soon get truly apocalyptic, given that some tea party-aligned Republicans are balking at raising the debt limit, which we'll reach later this spring. That would be far more serious than a government shutdown: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has warned of “catastrophic economic consequences, including default on U.S. debt and a suspension of Social Security payments.
In the past, such a scenario would be inconceivable — moderate, business-minded conservatives wouldn’t permit it. But tea party-dominated House sees the American economic situation as dire enough to merit extreme measures. “Congress simply cannot continue to operate under the pretense of ‘gangster government,’ raising the limit upon our whim,” Tea Party Caucus founder Rep. Michele Bachmann wrote last month. Bartlett urges us to take the possibility seriously: “I really think they are crazy enough to do it.”

"but in fact it’s deeply

"but in fact it’s deeply rooted in the religious right." Gee the NY Media finally gets the idea that the Tea Party is more about the culture wars of the 60's then real dollars and sense budget concepts; the horses have long left the barn folks!
From President Reagan saving SS by creating the Trust Fund then lowering taxes for the wealthy, to Bush two waging wars against Muslim's in Iraq and Afghanistan and the continued build up of military power under Obama should remind anybody with half a brain that America is a right wing nut case!

The Tea Party stands for individual rights

“As far I can tell it has no theoretical economic underpinnings, which is why it’s so difficult for the budget these days to be discussed, because statistics don’t mean anything, equations don’t convince anybody. It is almost a religious belief.”

Supply side economics is the theoretical economic underpinning. Also there's the philosophy of individualism, that is individual rights and freedom, the philosophy behind the nation of the enlightenment — the United States of America. The proper, limited role of the federal government is to protect individual rights, which entails leaving man free to keep the fruits of labor and act on his thoughts, so long as he's not committing any real crime. This means a fundamental debate about whether America should continue hurtling towards dictatorship piecemeal, and dismantling the welfare state and moving towards freedom and the complete separation of state and economy, or capitalism — ditching the mixed economy or quasi-fascist system we have today.

The Tea Party spawned when the American people got sick and tired of dictatorship as usual. The Tea Party aren't republican party, nor GOP establishment. Ousting the Dems in Congress and approximating gridlock was simply the political tourniquet to slow the bleeding.

The statistics back the rational side of the debate, which is to limit government to its proper functions, and move America back to its founding principles. That is what the Tea Party is about.

America wasn't founded as a judeo-christian nation. It was founded by folks that questioned the very existence of a God, in the words of Jefferson, and this was part of the reason REASON was injected into the set up of the republic, as opposed to the outright barbarism of faith and force. Although religious folk were all over the original colonies, people were somewhat nominally religious, and well educated.

The size and scope of the federal budget, which is mindblowing, and mathematically, will leave the country bankrupt someday (whether fifty years from now or less), is the output of big government and welfare statism, and there's no denying this — just look at social security and medicare — two immoral and impractical welfare statist programs that represent the violation of the right to life, property, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Fundamentalism and radicalism in and of itself isn't intrinsically evil. It depends what you are fighting for, and as Ayn Rand put it — “In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit”.

Rather it is the woodstock emotionalists, the same ones who cheered when the original American philosophy was thrown out in the 60s counter-culture, who are evading the evil of the massive federal budget, and what it represents.

Not even neocons believed in supply-side, get over it

Not even neocon founders like Irving Kristol really believed in supply-side economics:

It was, and always has been, a feeble excuse used by conservatives to transfer more and more wealth to the top. The Tea Party, of course, embraces it loudly as the people who paid for all those riled-up teabaggers wouldn't have it any other way.

I'm baffled as to what exactly the hippie-punching at the end of your post refers to, but you and the rest of the Tea Party can keep cheering for the boot on your neck to push down harder if that's what you prefer.

Health care costs are

Health care costs are projected to bankrupt the private sector faster than the public sector. The only thing that's "immoral" about social security is the lie that it is "bankrupt." Social security receipts have been higher than outlays every year since 1985.

@ Tea Party Stands for individual rights

Really!!!! When you start quoting Ayn Rand,you loose what little credibility you had for your argument. History will repeat itself and the " Tea Party" will be a footnote in the history book. Really the evils of the federal budget. Please go back to the rock you live under. Thanks Jim

The proper role of the federal government

"The proper, limited role of the federal government is to protect individual rights, which entails leaving man free to keep the fruits of labor and act on his thoughts, so long as he's not committing any real crime."

Huh? I don't know what government that budget wonk is talking about, but we know the proper role of the US government:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

It seems like if they'd wanted to, the Founding Fathers could have written, "We the People of the United States, in order to protect individual rights, leaving man free to keep the fruits of labor and act on his thoughts, so long as he's not committing any real crime, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Funny, but they didn't write that. Maybe folks who think that's what they should have written can move to another country. Please.

Stan, if you're gonna be a

Stan, if you're gonna be a "guru", I'm pretty sure you need a special hat.

The Gods Contend In Vain

Comments prove the old statement: Even the Gods Contend In Vain Against Willful Ignorance (Tea Bagging Aynd Rantdish).

We need the shutdown

Our political culture is broken. Our business culture is broken and maybe even corrupt. As painful as it might be, we need this crisis to force a resolution to all the silliness that's been going on for years. I'm a life long liberal Democrat, but it's time to call the GOP bluff and see what America is made of. I may not like the answer, but at least then it will be clear for all to see.

The article is off base in at

The article is off base in at least one respect. If the issue was debt per se, the tea party would have objected to the extension of all of the tax cuts in December. The issue is spending that goes to groups that generally favor Democrats, and spending to enforce laws and regulations generally favored by Democrats. These guys aren't budget fundamentalists, they're Republican fundamentalists.

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