I was never that great at math, but apparently compared to your average Tea Party enthusiast, I'm a mathematical genius.
They held a "rally" (if you can call it that when only 100 people show up, and are outnumbered by the press covering the event) today in Washington to push House Republicans to refuse to compromise and to hold out for at least a $61 billion cut in the 2011 budget. The first clue that they don't get math is in that refusal to compromise, since Republicans control only one house of Congress and not the White House--when Democrats hold the Senate and the presidency, you don't get to not compromise and still get a bill. That's simple math.
The bigger problem is that while government spending might be a small problem, and the deficit is something to be concerned about, virtually every reputable economist agrees that compared to jobs, it's a minor problem. The real problem facing us right now is that the recovery is happening, but it's still shaky. Cutting government spending now is the worst thing that could be done (well, possibly second worst--a government shutdown could not only squash any public confidence, but when Social Security checks and tax refunds and paychecks and government projects stop flowing, it'll stop the recovery cold and potentially hurl us right back into recession).
Corporations are making record profits, and they're not hiring. Since they're not hiring, someone's got to spend money to keep small businesses flush so they can hire. That's got to be government. Jobs have been coming back, but they're still hard to get and they're not paying as well as the ones that went away. Without a healthy economy, the deficit will get worse. With a healthy economy, the deficit will get better. Pretty simple math, there, folks. Full employment means plenty of people paying plenty of taxes, and the deficit shrinks.
Of course, the Tea Partiers are angry at government, but if they're angry because their paychecks don't go as far as they once did, that anger is misplaced. They should be looking at conservative policies that have been pursued for the last 30 years, designed to shift wealth away from the middle class and the poor, to the very rich. Those 400 families that control more wealth than 80% of Americans are doing fine. The rest of us, not so much. It's true, TP, you don't have as much money in your pockets. But it's not because you're overtaxed. It's because the wealthy and the corporations have made sure wages stay stagnant or shrink so they can pocket more. To make sure this doesn't turn around, they're now going after public employee unions. Does anyone believe private sector unions won't be next? And if you can't organize and you can't strike, what gives any worker any control over his or her own future?
There's plenty to be concerned, even angry about. But if the Tea Partiers want to have a serious conversation about the country's direction, they need to go back to school and learn their arithmetic.