Standard & Poor’s on Friday downgraded the United States Congress. You may have heard media reports that it was the country’s credit rating that was downgraded, but the statement issued by the S&P is unambiguous with regard to their reasons for the downgrade and whom they hold responsible:
[T]he downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges […] The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy.
To be sure, the S&P threw in a few references to the outstanding debt and the inadequacy of the remedies contained in last week’s legislation, but their persistent focus on political failings was inescapable. Notwithstanding the challenge from the White House that their math was “fundamentally flawed,” the S&P proceeded with the downgrade because the math isn’t the main driver of their analysis. They made plain that the primary reason for their decision was the bad behavior of the political players and that it is Congress who deserves the downgrade.
Not surprisingly, the American people agree. A new poll from the New York Times/CBS News shows the disapproval rating for Congress at 82%. Breaking that down further reveals bad news for Republicans who were dominated by their tiny Tea Party flank:
- All told, 72 percent disapproved of the way Republicans in Congress handled the negotiations, while 66 percent disapproved of the way Democrats in Congress handled negotiations.
- Forty-three percent of Americans now think the Tea Party has too much influence on the Republican Party, up from 27 percent in mid-April.
- Sixty-three percent of those polled said that they supported raising taxes on households that earn more than $250,000 a year, as Mr. Obama has sought to do — including majorities of Democrats (80 percent), independents (61 percent) and Republicans (52 percent).
- Forty-four percent said that the deficit was mostly caused by the Bush administration.
The same poll showed President Obama’s approval rating to be more than twice that of the Tea Party. But that didn’t stop Fox News from posting a link to the poll on their Fox Nation web site with a headline that said the exact opposite.
Perhaps it is not within the jurisdiction of the S&P to rate the performance of Congress, but it is difficult to dispute their conclusion. It would be nice if the media analysis of recent weeks in Washington were this astute. Yet the press continues to treat the Tea Party as if it were a popular expression of the people, rather than an AstroTurf invention of wealthy special interests.
The statement from the S&P effectively declares that, were it not for the intransigent extremism of the Tea Party, the country’s credit rating would still be triple-A. And if the press would stop pretending that the Tea Party has any real significance, the country would be better off in a multitude of ways. So thanks to Tea Party dementia and media madness America can proudly enter the 2nd Dip of its Great Recession.