The Washington Post needs to clean up this mess

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

Earlier today, the Washington Post hosted Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer for an Online Q&A in which she (theoretically) answered reader questions for about an hour. No Post reporter or editor was on hand to ask Kremer follow-ups, insist that she answer the questions asked, or force her to reconcile or abandon her seemingly-incompatible claims.

Without such supervision, Kremer made a mess of things. Some Post readers, no doubt, will recognize her claims as obvious absurdities. But, absent any effort by the Post to correct the record, many other readers will come away with a deep misunderstanding of the federal budget, and without understanding that the Tea Party agenda as articulated by Kremer is entirely fraudulent.

Throughout the Q&A, Kremer repeatedly insisted that the Tea Party "movement" is about "issues" and "educating" voters:

"We need to stop playing party politics and focus on the issues."

"We do not need to be focused on party politics, but on the issues."

"One thing to understand is that this movement is organic and is issue based. We do not need a leader to tell us what issues are important."

"This movement is focused on education because through educating people, we empower them. … It is our job to educate them."

But for someone so certain that she and her colleagues don't need to be told "what issues are important" and that it is their job to "educate" the public -- and someone who insists her movement is "issue based" -- Kremer was quick to duck calls for specifics by disclaiming any expertise on issues:

"I am not an expert on the US budget"

"I am not an expert on illegal immigration and so I cannot give specifics."

Again and again, Kremer declared the Tea Party's insistence on balanced budgets and desire to elect "fiscal conservatives":

"We need to balance our budget."

"The movement is focused on 3 core principles and values...fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets."

"This movement is focused three core principles and values...fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets."

"I would hope that all elected officials (both Democrats and Republicans) will work together to balance our budget."

"It is simple...we cannot spend more than we make."

"Our objective is to send true fiscal conservatives to Washington, not Republicans or Democrats!"

But Kremer also rattled off a series of tax cuts the Tea Partiers support -- the only actual specifics she offered in the entire session:

"This movement is very diverse and is not lead by any one group. There are many groups out there that have offered solutions or proposals. I have heard many talking about a balanced budget amendment, tax cuts for job creation, ban on earmarks, lowering the corporate tax rate, etc. One thing that the movement absolutely supports is the extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts."

So Kremer and her fellow Tea Partiers are adamant: The budget must be balanced. And they absolutely support the extension of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts. Oh, and they want tax cuts for job creation, a lowering of the corporate tax rate, and "etc." While balancing the budget. That's going to require some deep cuts in spending. Surely this issue-focused Tea Party leader who thinks it's her job to "educate" the public has some specific cuts in mind? I mean, other than that "ban on earmarks," which will get her approximately zero percent of the way to her goal of balancing the budget while passing massive tax cuts. Let's take a look:

"[W]e must reign in the spending."

"People across this country are waking up and engaging in the political process and realizing that we cannot sustain this out of control spending."

"We need to look at the entire budget, not just entitlement programs. Everything should be on the table."

"I understand that it is hard to cut spending. No one ever said this was going to be easy. I am not an expert on the US budget, but we need to look at all spending across the board. I have heard a number of them talk about cutting earmarks. That is a start!"

"We need to look at ALL programs across the board and determine where we can make cuts. It is not going to be easy, but it has to be done."

Right. Hmmm. Not a lot of detail there. Some might think that balancing an already-badly-unbalanced budget while passing additional massive tax cuts would require draconian cuts in … well, in everything. But don't worry: Kremer assures us the cuts won't mean a reduction in government services for those who rely upon them:

Less taxes, less services?: So the Tea Party seems to be all about less taxes and less government. Doesn't this automatically mean less services for the poor and the unemployed? I ask this question as someone who was just laid off.

Amy Kremer: No, this does not mean less services for the less fortunate. We need to balance our budget and reign in the spending. We need transparency to know where the money is going and stop lining the pockets of corporate lobbyists and special interests. We need to look at some of the pork that can be cut back.

So, according to Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer, writing in the Washington Post, the Tea Party Express wants to cut a bunch of taxes while balancing the budget without providing less services. That is impossible. Kramer and her "movement" are either spectacularly ignorant, shamelessly dishonest, or both. And yet the Post just allowed her to peddle her snake oil, without any reality check whatsoever, as though it is somehow performing a service by inflicting upon its readers a barrage of vague platitudes and impossibilities.

Having done that, the Post owes its readers a follow-up spelling out the budgetary effects of those tax cuts and the spending cuts necessary to balance the budget as a result. If the Post thinks the Tea Partiers are important enough that they deserve weekly opportunities to spread their fantasyland message, surely they're important enough to have their claims scrutinized. Unless, of course, the Post doesn't think its readers are important enough to deserve actual facts.

The Post presumably wouldn't think it acceptable to repeatedly print someone's false claim that Barack Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim without pointing out the falsity of the claim. So why does it think it's ok to print the false claim that the budget can be balanced while cutting taxes and without a reduction in "services for the less fortunate" without demonstrating the impossibility of that claim?

Posted In
Economy, Budget
The Washington Post
Tea Party
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.