Via Instapundit comes Rasmussen Reports' year-end thoughts on the impact and future of the Tea Party movement:
The Tea Party movement was one of the biggest political stories during the 2010 election season. From an electoral standpoint, the grassroots movement had it first impact by forcing long-time Senator Arlen Specter out of the Republican Party (and eventually out of the U.S. Senate). By the end of the season, several Tea Party candidates such as Florida's Marco Rubio and Kentucky's Rand Paul were elected to the U.S. Senate.
A plurality of voters nationwide expect these Tea Party candidates to sell out and become just like other politicians. However, Tea Party activists are much more confident that these candidates will remain true to their beliefs. Pressure from the Tea Party clearly played a role in the lame duck session of Congress and may be largely responsible for the tax cut deal that was signed by President Obama.
Rasmussen polls find that 41 percent of folks expect the Tea Party to be stronger in the coming year. More here.
Well, maybe. And as long as the message is a simple "stop spending," it's all to the good.
But let's come back to that super-sweetened "tax cut deal" that just got cut like a Stuckey's pecan log roll on Christmas morning. This thing ain't gonna taste any better in a couple of weeks or months (the typical time it takes to get rid of a Stuckey's product) or next year.
The major provisions extend most of Bush tax rates for two years, cut 2 percentage points off the employee portion of Social Security taxes for a year, speed up business equipment depreciation schedules, extend unemployment benefits for long-time jobseekers, and then throw a ton of money at more targeted special interests such as ethanol junkies, tech companies, rum makers, and the like.
The net result? Charles Krauthammer's tally goes like this:
Despite a very weak post-election hand, Obama got the Republicans to offer to increase spending and cut taxes by $990 billion over two years—$630 billion of it above and beyond extension of the Bush tax cuts.
I rarely agree with Krauthammer on even the time of day, but he's got a point here. Morning Joe host and former GOP Rep. Joe Scarborough agrees that "GOP budget hawks chicken[ed] out early." Writing in Politico, Scarborough says
All the president had to do to gain their support was wave tax cuts in front of Republican leaders and, like Pavlov's dogs, they began to drool. Once the salivating stops, America will be $1 trillion deeper in debt….
By now no one should be surprised by the Republican Party's dementia when dealing with the debt. After all, this is the same party who campaigned forever on fiscal restraint before turning a a $155 billion surplus and turned it into a $1 trillion dollar deficit….
In a town where remembering anything that happened before the last election cycle makes you into a veritable Tiresias, Scarborough reminds us of promises past:
"Democrats are talking about no deficits — we're talking about fiscal responsibility," Pelosi said on the campaign trail in 2006. She bluntly declared that Democrats would "put an end to deficit spending."
Of course we know how that story ended. For four years, Nancy Pelosi presided over the most fiscally reckless Congress in U.S. history.
Like Republicans, Pelosi's Democrats also refused to heed warnings from the few remaining fiscal conservatives in Washington.
So that's the backdrop for Rasmussen's oddly upbeat assessment of the Tea Party's influence in 2010. It's true that the big-ticket Tea Party candidates—the Marco Rubios, Rand Pauls, and Mike Lees—aren't in office yet, but it's hard to argue that the Tea Party helped force a tough deal on recalcitrant DC lawmakers. Sen. Tom Coburn, like Jim Bunning before him, couldn't scrounge up any meaningful support to find cuts elsewhere in a massive budget to fund extending unemployment benefits. That ain't good.
Neither is the fact that the government has been operating on continuing resolutions since fiscal year 2011 kicked in October 1; the latest deal maintains the status quo until March 4 of next year. Which, incidentally, is around the time the goverment should be in the thick of wrapping up work on the budget for fiscal year 2012. This lack of action is not all bad—it precludes major upticks in spending—but it is clearly a sign of a defective process and, more important, defective players in that process. There is simply no excuse for the government not getting its shit together to pass a budget for the year it's in. Especially when a single party controlled Congress and the White House.
But it's all gonna be alright, kids, because the president, gazing into calendar year 2011, has promised a "robust debate" about the federal budget (which year's we're not so sure). Which, as USA Today tells us, means that
Obama mentioned the need to address government spending as he looked ahead to 2011. But he did not say cutting spending will be his sole mantra.
Instead, the president cited education, innovation and research and development as areas requiring additional investment. The continuing goal, he said, is to juice the economy and create jobs.
The big difference next year? He'll be dealing with a resurgent Republican Party, which really spells trouble for those of us who believe in thrifty government. Incoming House Speaker John Boehner's tears have stained such massive aggrandizements of federal power as No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, wars wherever you want 'em, and TARP. The GOP turned the lame-duck session into an exercise in self-deboning. Which (please pardon the pun) suggests that, Tea Party or not, our goose may be cooked.
Take it away, Julia and Jacques: