Saturday, July 26, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

This is your government's brain on Tea Party

This is your government's brain on Tea Party

Nassau County, N.Y., in the center of densely populated Long Island, is one of the most affluent counties in America. That said, it's had its problems -- some because of decades of mismanagement by a corrupt Republican machine (yes, these exist...think Delco) and some because of the 2008 fiscal crisis -- but they appeared to be manageable.

Until a Tea Party-inspired "tax revolt" took over the county in January 2010.

Barely a year later, Nassau County is broke:

At his January 2010 inauguration, Tea Party-backed Republican Edward Mangano marched up to the podium, pen in hand. Even before being officially declared Nassau County Executive, he signed a repeal of an unpopular home energy tax.

The move elicited chants of "Eddie, Eddie, Eddie" from supporters assembled in the auditorium of Mangano's alma mater, Bethpage High School, 30 miles east of New York City.

"This is very cool and quite an honor," Mangano said as he gave his admirers a thumbs-up.

The fiscal consequences, however, were anything but cool.

The energy tax was part of a three-part plan by the pre-2010 Democratic regime for balancing Nassau's budget during the Great Recession -- along with higher taxes and $61 million in union concessions. But Tea Partier Mangano also bagged the property tax component, unsurprisingly, and he never took the union concessions seriously. The county budget grew so out of whack so quickly that a state panel that monitor's Nassau's finances -- created during that earlier era of GOP misrule -- moved in. The grown-ups are taking over.

Coincidentally, you're going to be hearing a lot over the next 10 days about Ronald Reagan and his 100th birthday, which is such a big deal that they've also created a football game called the Super Bowl to be played that very same day. Most of the Reagan talk will be good, some of it will be critical. Many would ask: Why debate the politics of Reagan nearly seven years after he died? This is why.

What Edward Mangano did isn't exactly copying Reagan -- the Gipper, who signed off on a series of tax increases beginning in the second year of his presidency, was a lot smarter than the Tea Party -- but it is instead what I and others have come to call Reaganism, or the Reagan myth. A central tenet of the Reagan myth is that taxes can only be cut.

What happened in Nassau is Reaganism to the extreme -- exacerbated by Mangano's fear of making tough spending cuts to match his verbal bravado. And it's what would happen to America, if the Tea-fueled Republicans seize control of more of the government in 2013.

It's so crazy I almost want to quote Sarah Palin.

See you Sunday. Win the Weekend!

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Will Bunch
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