Thursday, October 16, 2014

Laughing At The Tea Party Express And Its Empty Endorsement Of Mike Rounds As A Deficit Hawk

     Cory Heidelberger over at The Madville Times beat me to the punch.  Just the same, I'm laughing as hard as he is  over some news that takes the starch out of Republican Senate candidate Mike Rounds' persistent claim, backed up by yesterday's  Tea Party Express endorsement, that Rounds "can get out-of-control federal spending under control."  Sometimes you just have to wonder if these people aren't so wrapped up in their own rhetorical gobbledygook that they completely ignore objective reality.
     For one thing, federal spending is not out of control.  Yesterday, the United States Treasury, closing its books on the current fiscal year, announced that the federal deficit is 2.8% of the country's Gross Domestic Product, a number that is in line with periods of relatively tame deficits over the course of the last several decades. For context, consider that the deficit was around 10% of GDP in 2009, the year Obama took charge of stemming the economic avalanche that greeted his inauguration.  Over the years, despite Republican howls of unsustainable debt, government shutdowns, debt ceiling freezes and so on, the economy has righted itself and, Obama's policies being responsible or not, has quietly achieved some semblance of normalcy.
    A writer in Forbes--the publication that sets the standard for the GOP worldview on business and economic affairs--is almost giddy with smugness over this, consistent as it's been with his forecasts.  Stan Collender notes that "the only comparable period" was during the years immediately after WWII, when the deficit went from 29% of GDP to a slight surplus by the late 1940s.  That was a different era, of course, when different economic and social forces came into play, but that doesn't take much away from the dramatic improvement in the country's fiscal health during the Obama years.
     As to its political implications for the South Dakota senate campaign, I suppose the news won't take away from whatever rapture remains among Rounds' followers.  Given that his support in the polls has been languishing in the upper-30s for weeks now, he probably has a core constituency that will vote for him no matter what.  Among the two-thirds of South Dakotans who would prefer someone else, this news will make it more difficult for them to reconsider and settle on Rounds, who is promising something that already exists--a federal budget that is largely under control and shows no signs of wavering off course.  Rounds' Tea Party-backed promise to fix something that isn't broken is  gratuitous and disconnected from reality, and ultimately useless as a political come-on.

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