The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, commonly known as the Stimulus, opened the door to many projects in America. ARRA aimed to boost America’s economy out of a recession that plagued the entire world. It paved the way for many things: $90.9 billion for education, with $2 billion specifically for Head Start and a 17 percent increase in the maximum Pell Grant to $5,350, and tax reductions for the middle class by $237 billion. Unfortunately for America, it indirectly led to the emergence of the Tea Party movement. This movement has done nothing productive for America and has only caused further interruptions in the country’s already strenuous democratic process.
In its first year, the Tea Party Caucus, chaired by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), came host to 60 members of the House and four from the Senate. Although the caucus claims no other political affiliation, every Tea Party Caucus member is also a part of the Republican Caucus.
Backers of the Tea Party Cacaus have proven willing to take Capitol Hill all the way to the edge of the disaster in their vehement stance against taxation and government spending. In the case of the recent debate over the debt ceiling, they almost went too far.
Since the debt ceiling was first raised in 1962, Congress has voted to raise the debt ceiling 74 times on a non-partisan basis.
So why was this time any different? It can all be traced back to the Tea Party. Ms. Bachmann, the well groomed figurehead of the party, publicly stated numerous times that she had no intention of voting for the Budget Control Act of 2011 — the compromise ultimately reached by both chambers of Congress to raise the debt ceiling. She tried to comfort her colleagues and constituents into believing that there would be no fallout from not raising the U.S.’s borrowing limit. “I want to state unequivocally for the world, as well as for the markets, as well as for the American people: I have no doubt that we will not lose the full faith and credit of the United States,” said Bachmann last month.
Normally, such a small minority like the Tea Party, which accounts for less than 14 percent of the House, would not have the power to influence the passage of a bill. Unfortunately, due to the Tea Party’s unrelenting ability to actively avoid any compromise and the maleable backbone of the Republican leadership, the relative whispers of Bachmann’s likeminded colleagues became a perpetual chant against any attempt at a bipartisan solution.
After House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and his fellow Republicans broke up many attempts at compromise between both parties by stepping away from the table, a solution was finally hammered out. The compromise included an estimated $917 billion in cuts over ten years without raising revenue. It undoes many of the benefits of the 2009 ARRA, while not touching any entitlement programs — programs which account for over half the annual budget. This settlement insures that not only will future sessions of Congress have the same battle, but will also have less money as a buffer.
Markets did not react to the compromise kindly. Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the U.S.’s credit score, from AAA to AA+, did not have to happen. In their attempt to shrink the United States government and make it more accountable, the Tea Party has only hindered the progress of America and threatened future generations. Our parents taught us to get along with our friends, siblings and even enemies. The Tea Party should take a lesson from the nation’s second graders and learn how to compromise.