End chaos caused by the Tea Party monster

Updated: 2013-11-06 07:07

By Harvey Dzodin (China Daily)

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The United States' budget crisis is over. But the country merely bought itself a little more time before January, when it will likely re-enact the spectacle. The sad truth is that the US political system, which depends on the goodwill of those who participate in it, is being paralyzed by a small bunch of ideologues hell-bent on nothing less than dismantling much of the US government at all levels.

Perhaps, it's more accurate to say that the Republicans have a cancer, and that cancer is called the Tea Party, which is no party at all, and about as much fun as an aggressive tumor threatening the body politic.

I never thought that I'd have any real sympathy for a Republican leader but my heart goes out to John Boehner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives. His main job is to organize his 234 to 201 majority to speak with one voice and to force the Democratic Senate and President Barack Obama to negotiate and compromise. Yet with the Tea Party being the tail wagging the Republican dog, he cannot control his members.

The Tea Partiers, and they come from both mainstream parties, are a motley and diverse crew, who fervently believe that government is best when it governs least. On one side of the spectrum are highly principled Libertarians like former Congressman Ron Paul, and his son, Senator Rand Paul. On the other are a collection of nut jobs ranging from survivalists, who are busy preparing shelters and stocking them with food, water and ammunition against neighbors or other enemies when the expected chaos comes, to various militia members, ready to fight against a government they consider illegal.

Personally, I can't help but conclude that many of them are racist bigots who detest Obama. They still can't get over the fact that a black man was elected, and re-elected as president of the US, and they consider him either a communist or a socialist. And they are in shock that this same man had the skill-set to get Congress to pass the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare" as they derisively call it, whose constitutionality was affirmed by a right-leaning Supreme Court.

Prepare to see the same shameful spectacle repeated in January, but perhaps even more viciously and more skillfully by Republicans who will have learned many lessons from their embarrassing and costly defeat. Tea Partiers have said that those incumbents who have crossed them, and wimped out can be assured of an intra-party primary challenge. They also said that they will continue their efforts to nullify Obamacare, whatever it takes.

The Republican-forced government shutdown is estimated to have cost up to $24 billion, with a 20 percent loss in GDP forecast for the fourth quarter. But this is nothing compared to what will happen in January if the government is again forced to close its doors and the US defaults on repaying its debt obligations.

The number one financial loser in a default would be China, the biggest single foreign creditor of the US government, with at least $1.3 trillion of bonds and $3.5 trillion of dollar-denominated assets. In the chaotic world financial markets created by a US default, China's only silver lining is that many countries will see the US as an unreliable financial and political partner, and look more to China for financial and political leadership.

In the short term, we will all be waiting anxiously to see if Republican leadership can successfully thwart the Tea Party this time. Although many pundits have predicted its demise, this is unlikely because this faction of "true believers" is now part of the Republican DNA. Perhaps, we won't know until a year from now when the US voters have a chance to react, hopefully driving a stake through the heart of this monster. Although these are unusual times, long-term trends predict that the President's party will lose a substantial number of seats. It's therefore critical that the Republicans get their house in order now.

The author is a senior adviser to Tsinghua University and former director and vice-president of ABC Television in New York.

(China Daily 11/06/2013 page8)