In recent days, we have been treated to a flood of rhetoric, often angry and frankly outright hateful, about what the “Tea Party” and Republicans want in the debt ceiling debate. What is remarkable about this flood is that almost none of the hundreds of posts on the subject show any sign of having even met a real live “Tea Party” member, let alone asking the “Tea Party” people what they actually think. It’s all just hateful stereotypes and sweeping generalizations.
It is a lot easier to caricature and demonize someone if they aren’t in the room, isn’t it?
That practice is morally and intellectually wrong and should be corrected. Here is a column from a “Tea Party” member describing his view on the debt ceiling debate.
If we are going to argue against someone, the least we should do is let that person describe their own arguments. If instead we have to put words into his mouth, extract out-of-context sound bites, or do mind-reading to report on his secret evil motives, well, that doesn’t have a lot of credibility, to put it mildly.
There is a lot to disagree with in the “Tea Party” position on this subject. For starters, I think the idea that spending has to be cut is true, but the “Tea Party’s” chosen method of abruptly cutting up the nation’s credit card and forcing a “cold turkey” conversion in the middle of a period of extended economic malaise is poorly considered at best and probably outright counterproductive. Moreover, even if we were to eliminate all of the earmarks and boondoggles that the “Tea Party” author uses as exemplars to whip up public resentment against government spending, we wouldn’t even make a significant dent in the current deficit, let alone the long-term budget problem. Many of his arguments are just red herrings.
But those arguments should be had face-to-face with real people, instead of shadow-boxing against demonic strawmen.