In the wake of the most recent round of budgetary brinkmanship, had the federal government indeed shut down last Friday at midnight there would be at least one piece of silver lining: We might have finally been able to put the Tea Party philosophy to rest once and for all by exposing its fundamental fallacies.
Had the two parties failed to reach a compromise before the deadline, this week could have been a preview of a Tea Party golden age. We would have awoken to an America in which the “non-essential” parts of the federal government were comatose.
Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security payouts would have grinded to a halt during a government shutdown. No fuss, no muss. The entitlement programs that are so vilified by Tea Party types would no longer exist. Easier this way than through the death by a thousand cuts and privatizations currently being pursued in Paul Ryan’s long-term budget proposal, no?
Enforcement of environmental regulations so often derided by Glenn Beck types would vanish just like that. In 1995, the last time a budget impasse created a government shutdown, over 600 toxic waste clean-ups were stopped cold in their tracks. No more would your hard-earned tax dollars have to pay to clean hazardous substances from our purple mountains majesty!
During a government shutdown, it would be impossible to get a passport or visa processed, so good luck getting out of the country. But who would really want to leave America during its crippled state anyway, other than some draft-dodging, long-haired, hippie Socialists? Plus, all those furloughed government workers could use their newfound free time, as John McCain would say, to “complete the danged fence.” Might as well fence off California while we’re at it.
Of course, the essential parts of our federal government would persevere in this government-shutdown utopia. The continuing resolution that postponed the true budget showdown for one more week also funded the military through the following fiscal year. The military would continue, strong as ever, although the soldiers wouldn’t get paid. Since providing for the national defense is one of the very few roles that the Tea Party dream government would play, almost completely shutting down the government would make it just the right size!
The hypothetical is extreme, but this reductio ad absurdum just goes to show how, well, absurd the Tea Party platform is when considered in real world terms. It is completely defensible to believe in a smaller government, in fiscal conservatism, and other planks of the platform that have been shouted so many times before and since the November elections. But many of the demagogues—I’m looking at you, Michelle Bachmann and both Rand and Ron Paul—who portray spending and the national debt as a pending apocalypse and an emaciated federal government as the ideal are misguided.
No one wanted the government to shut down last Friday. But many who fully subscribe to the Tea Party philosophy want just about the same thing done—just at a slower pace.
Sam N. Adams ’14, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Thayer Hall.