A nation at risk

Extremist ideologues in the House are threatening the recovery

As we all learned in high school, politics is the art of compromise, a process of give-and-take. When one party becomes intransigent and refuses to bargain, the process breaks down.

That’s what’s happening in Washington these days. In order to get the debt ceiling raised and avoid a devastating default that could further cripple the economy, and to begin tackling the national debt and budget deficit, President Obama took a bold step by offering to make nearly $4 trillion in cuts to valuable programs over the next decade. In return, he sought to raise about one-third that much in new revenues by removing corporate-tax loopholes, ending subsidies to oil companies, and hiking the tax rate for the country’s wealthiest citizens.

Faced with an opportunity to make significant inroads in the nation’s debt and deficit, what did the House Republicans do? They turned down the offer because it raised taxes, something to which they are ideologically opposed. That kind of foolish stubbornness would have shocked their hero, Ronald Reagan, who raised the debt ceiling more than a dozen times—and taxes several times, too, when he thought doing so was necessary.

So it’s come to this: A group of Tea Party zealots in the House is willing to destroy the full faith and credit of the United States, a foundation on which the entire global economy rests, in order to maintain their ideological purity. They would further wreck the economy in a deluded belief that doing so will make it stronger.

Let’s call this what it is: extremism of a dangerous sort. The president has tried to work within the grand tradition of compromise, but the ideologues have refused to meet him halfway and are putting the nation at risk. Why aren’t people outraged?