This was going to be a comment on my brother's post, but I decided to promote it.
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 :::
I was musing the other day that, given the weak economy and supposing a severe and sudden fiscal tightening would further weaken it, the tea party faction of the House is just about ideal. While they solved a commitment problem for Boehner for a while, and while I think with this episode they may have moved the debate so that the public will be more open to small government in the future, the most intransigent opponents of any deal ultimately forced Boehner to get Democrats just to get the final deal through his own house, and likely, in the short term, pushed the thing to the left. Weaker short-term austerity sowing the seeds for more log-term prudence is exactly what a lot of the Mankiws — mainstream neo-Keynesian Republican economists — would champion.
There are also an interesting number of unitary agent approximations in play over the past few weeks. Some of the overseas commentary, and much hypothetical overseas commentary as put forth by mostly left-wing proponents of a quicker deal, portray the US government as a single entity that's not sure it wants to pay its debts. More often, coverage has employed the standard reporting trope of Republican vs. Democrat. Occasionally it has been Republican House vs. Democratic President. It's more accurate, for a lot of purposes, though, to view the House as a "coalition government", with the Tea Party separate from the Republicans and the Democrats, and none of the three with a majority. (cf. my brother's comment about defense cuts, which have passed the House with bi-partisan (non-Republican) support before.) Finally, I don't know where Paul Ryan fits — whether he's considered a Tea Partier or a Republican — but he voted for the bill, and (I can't find the link) criticized the Michele Bachmanns a week or two ago for their refusal to compromise at all. He has been in Congress longer than most of the "Tea Party" folks, so perhaps he counts as a Republican anyway, but he seems to be in between them.
At some level, of course, we group agent together because it works well enough and because it's impossible to analyze every deal as one negotiated among 536 people. There are more important distinctions right now, though, particularly in the House, than is usually the case.
::: posted by dWj at 9:53 AM