Last weekend, Americans watched in anger and disbelief as Tea Party Republicans held our nation's economy and our international standing hostage. Although debt default was ultimately averted, the crisis did not end with the hostages walking away unharmed. The extremity of the debt deal's spending cuts and the fact that more revenues -- making billionaires, millionaires and corporations pay their fair share in taxes -- were, in the end, not even on the table mean Americans will be hurt and the economy will be slower to recover. We got immediate proof of this as the stock market plummeted in response to the deal and Standard & Poors downgraded U.S. credit rating for the first time in history.
Now, as the dust settles, House Whip Eric Cantor has declared that because of Tea Party Republicans' refusal to make the rich pay their fare share, the government won't be able to keep its promises to future generations. Young Americans, Cantor said on Wednesday, are going to have to "come to grips with the fact that promises have been made that frankly are not going to be kept for many."
We can do better than this. And the chance to do better starts in the states.
The manufactured debt-limit crisis and the historic swindle of the middle class that came out of it were not hard to see coming. In states like Wisconsin, Ohio and others across the country, budget battles going back to as early as February foreshadowed the reckless hard line we just saw the Tea Party take over the debt ceiling. Progressives have fought back hard against these assaults on low and middle income families, but were met with a major push by right-wing governors and state lawmakers for state budgets with devastating, draconian cuts to health care, education and more essential services.
In one state, where all these things happened, we have a chance, on Tuesday, to stop the onslaught and say "No!" in a way that will resonate across the country.
In Wisconsin, six right-wing state senators who aided Republican Gov. Scott Walker in passing budget measures that took an ax to the state's social services and to the rights of working people, while preserving hand-outs to the wealthy and out-of-state corporations, are facing recall elections. If three of them lose their seats and all Democrats keep theirs, control of the state Senate will switch -- and Tea Party Republicans across the country will get a serious wake up call.
Progressives can do this... because we must do this. The debt limit crisis showed us how serious the stakes are.
The debt ceiling hostage crisis -- simply that it was able to happen -- is a testament to the dysfunction of our current political culture. The right-wing Republican positions on taxation, spending and deficits, which unfortunately have set the agenda this last year, have absolutely nothing to do with sound economics... and everything to do with a dogged commitment to extreme right-wing orthodoxy and making the government, at every level, subservient to powerful corporate interests. They aren't even consistent with the priorities of Americans -- a recent poll found that by a 2 to1 margin, Americans preferred that Washington focus on creating jobs to get the economy moving again than on deficit reduction.
If voices of compassion and reason don't prevail, we'll be stuck on a dangerous path towards being a country that ignores science, history and economics, and adopts policies based only on long-disproved right-wing ideological myths like "trickle down economics" and "cutting services is more important than creating jobs."
Winning in Wisconsin is the first step to taking our country back from a movement that has spun wildly out of control... and bringing back a government that cares about creating jobs, working for its citizens and keeping its promises.
Follow Michael B. Keegan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/peoplefor