Thursday, July 28, 2011

Debt Ceiling Shenanigans

As with most of the rest of the country, I've been enthralled with the soap opera drama of Congress: will they or won't they? As the August 2nd deadline grew closer and no plan seemed to appear, I grew more skeptical that they would reach a compromise. I even spent 2 days collecting and analyzing demographic data about the current House of Representatives, especially Tea Party endorsed representatives, who have been holding up the process.

Then tonight I realized that the Democrats only need 25 Republicans to vote for the debt ceiling increase. Normally they would need 218 votes, but with vacancies and illness, they need either 216 or 217. One of those ill is a Democrat, so they have 192, which means that if they all support raising the debt ceiling, then there only has to be a few Republicans who prefer not to cause a collapse in our global economic trust when the first of our bills start to go unpaid. None of the tax reform/spending cuts/hula hooping even needs to get attached, and the congress will again have wasted months creating fun political theater for the voters back home and 24-hr news corporations.

The cynical may argue that those Republicans will face losing their seats during the next election, since the Tea Party has promised to run challengers to any defectors. However, as a sociologist who has studied social movements for years, whenever there is a movement there is a counter-movement. This is especially the case when the first movement is loud and threatening. Take the Tea Party--it is a counter-movement to Obama's success. The Tea Party has brought the country to what is perceived by most to be the brink of economic catastrophe, piled on top of the mess perceived to have been left by Bush, not to mention the fact that this class of freshman TPers was elected in year when only 1/3 of us bothered to show up at the polls. Which means this: Tea Party challengers will pose no danger to Republicans who vote for the debt ceiling to be raised. Moreover, the challenge for the Tea Party is to not get booed off every stage in the next election. All they have done is handed Democrats control of the House in the next election, and assured Obama that he can take it easy next year (provided of course that unemployment doesn't spike next October). At this point it doesn't matter which side is ideologically right or wrong, since public perception has consolidated to the belief that the Tea Party is the source of this logjam, and when it comes to politics, perception is all that matters to agitated voters.

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