The battle for the soul of the GOP
In the match between Wall Street and the Tea Party, who will win the Republican soul?
Robert is chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Clinton. Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written 13 books, including “The Work of Nations,” his latest best-seller “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future," and a new e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.
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Wall Street and big business fear Tea Partiers won’t allow House Republicans to raise the debt ceiling without major spending cuts – and without tax increases on the wealthy. Wall Street and big business know this would be unacceptable to the White House and congressional Democrats.
The Street and big business want to tame the budget deficit but they don’t want to play games with the debt ceiling. Credit markets are fine at the moment, but if the debt ceiling isn’t not raised within the month – weeks before August 2, when the Treasury predicts the nation will run out of money to pay its creditors and its other bills – credit markets could go into free fall. The full faith and credit of the United States would be jeopardized. Interest rates would skyrocket. The dollar could plummet.
The Tea Partiers don’t care about the debt ceiling. To them, it’s a giant bargaining chit to shrink government. Nor do they worry about credit markets. If the full faith and credit of the U.S. government is no longer honored, so much the better.
You see, Tea Partiers hate government more than they hate the national debt. They refuse to reduce that debt with tax increases, even with tax increases on the wealthy, because a tax increase doesn’t reduce the size of government. The Tea Partiers’ real aim is to shrink the government.
But the Street and big business dislike the national debt more than they dislike government. And they wouldn’t even mind a small tax increase on wealthy people like themselves in order to cinch a deal on raising the national debt. They have so much money they’d scarcely notice.
In truth, government has been good to Wall Street and big business. It bailed out the Street. It saved GM, Chrysler, and AIG. And most government spending improves the profits of big businesses – military contractors, big agriculture, giant health-care insurers, Big Pharma, large construction companies.
Tea Partiers have almost as much contempt for big business and the Street as they do for government. After all, the Tea Party was born in anger over the Wall Street bailout.