I've long lamented that here in Washington state, where Democrats have controlled the governor's mansion since 1984, and one or both houses of the legislature for the past decade, we are gradually implementing the Republican economic agenda by default.
Washington has a structural revenue deficit. Due to our over-reliance on the sales tax, a tax base that has been steadily shrinking for more than a half century as a percentage of the overall economy, state revenue is growing slower than the economy as a whole, even as demand for state services and investments largely tracks growth in aggregate personal income. This means that government is getting smaller in relative terms. And that is the Republican economic agenda... one that cannot be halted or reversed at the state and local level unless and until Democrats are willing to lead on tax restructuring.
It's simple math. Indisputable.
And this agenda—smaller government—will only be accelerated in Washington and other states if Republicans succeed in freezing the debt ceiling and forcing the federal government into a historic default.
At least 7,000 top-rated municipal credits would have their ratings cut if the U.S. government loses its Aaa grade, Moody’s Investors Service said.
[...] The company rates 15 states at Aaa. It also gives top marks to 440 local governments, 100 state housing bond programs, 43 higher-education and nonprofit institutions, a like number of state revolving-fund bond programs, and the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Bonneville Power Administration.
These credit downgrades will be automatic. Which means so will be the increase in borrowing costs to state and local governments, further exacerbating their own fiscal crises.
At the tale end of a conversation with US Rep. Adam Smith last week, I talked with the moderate Democrat from WA's 9th Congressional District about the Republicans' seemingly apocalyptic approach to the ongoing debt ceiling negotiations, and asked if they were... well... crazy?
"I don't know that they are a legitimate partner to negotiate with," Rep. Smith said about his Republican colleagues. "But crazy enough to force a default?" Rep. Smith paused for a long moment. "A year ago, I would have said 'no.'"
Of course, it's too easy to just characterize the political opposition as insane. Stupid, ignorant, misguided, corporate-controlled, or just plain evil that some of them might be, the fact is that most of them genuinely believe that government must get smaller. Much, much smaller. Possibly even small enough to drown in a bathtub. And they're willing to push the world into an economic depression if that's what it takes to dramatically reshape the very notion of state and local government, thus saving America for the creeping evil of socialism.
If they're crazy, they're crazy as FOX.
The point is, it would be a mistake to simply look at the stalled debt ceiling negotiations as some sort of political game of chicken. That may be how the Obama administration is approaching the process, and I congratulate the president for taking a firm stand. But there are many in the Republican Party, including many of their leaders in Congress, who have no intention of swerving, and are actually desperately looking forward to the collision. Perhaps Wall Street still has its claws firmly around the nuts of enough of the Republican establishment to force a compromise, but for the true believers, default is the goal. They want the federal, state, and local governments to crash and burn, even if they take the economy down with them. And out of the ashes, a New America will rise. Or something.
Smaller government by default. That is the Republican agenda.