(Flickr/DruhScoff) The U.S. Treasury building in Washington, D.C.
If the Tea Party backlash to big government reached a high-water mark when Republican and Democratic leaders struck a deal on the budget Sunday, history should judge the movement as a failure.
Big government lives on. The American public still wants -- and, under this deal, will still get -- a public sector that will be larger over the next decade than it has been at most points since World War II. As with Reagan-era conservatives and the Republican majority in Congress during the 1990s, the legacy of the Tea Party will only be to stall government's growth; this latest push from the right won't substantially downsize -- much less starve -- the beast.
Progressives don't need more reasons to be disappointed with President Barack Obama's handling of the deficit talks, but here's another failing that has not gotten much play: The administration has been so timid on defense cuts that some leading Republicans are now well to the president's left on this issue.
Sharply downsizing the Pentagon -- which is projected to otherwise spend over $7 trillion through 2020 -- is one of the most obvious ways to reduce deficits. Yet without the strong backing of the commander in chief -- not to mention the negotiator in chief -- big defense cuts will never happen.
One consequence of Republican victories last November has been an onslaught of state legislation to require voters to show photo identification at polling places. This push builds on GOP efforts over the past decade to tighten ID requirements; at least 18 states have enacted more stringent rules since 2003, including, most recently, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
If Jim DeMint gets his way, the Senate will vote any day now on repealing the historic Dodd-Frank financial-reform law. While Senator DeMint is receiving a big assist from conservative lobbying groups, his amendment is sure to fail given the Democratic majority. Still, the tireless war against Dodd-Frank - a law that marks its first anniversary next month - will go on.
The budget hysteria that now grips Washington bodes ill for the economy by foreclosing new and badly needed stimulus. Yet the upside is that it also creates a historic opportunity to revamp federal spending in ways that foster greater national equity.
Big reforms are most likely to happen during periods of crisis. Conservatives have famously appreciated this truth with a "starve the beast" strategy that aims to first cut revenues and then use resulting budget crunches to downsize government. That playbook guides them today at both the federal and state level.