The Tea Party people aren’t really Zombies (at least, I don’t think they are) and yesterday’s election, as this Chronicle of Higher Education piece suggests, isn’t apocalyptic, at least in terms of any immediate changes in personnel on key higher education committees. The newly empowered Republicans will likely try to chip away at gains in money for student loans– pushing to give the banks back their share, no doubt- and the Democrats will surely continue pushing for a more tightly regulated proprietary education system, perhaps with a few Republican allies. Or perhaps they will back off a bit.
The real worry, though, is that the Tea Part’s ideology faces an sharp internal contradiction that could lead to either chaos or to the sorts of lay-off s that are happening in Louisiana. On the one hand, there’s this notion that government is too big, and that the budget needs to be cut. On the other hand is high unemployment. On the face of it, it sounds like Reaganomics all over again: somehow, if we help the rich, their wealth will ‘”trickle down” to the rest of us. It didn’t work the first time, and it won’t work now. In fact, just the opposite. The Tea Party blames high taxes but the real problem is low wages.
Next spring the Tea Party will be faced with the current Congress’ dilemma. Where do you cut? Do you go after the health care reforms when repealing them will have little immediate impact on the budget or on employment, which is your main interest? Will they really tell people that their kids won’t be covered by their health insurance after college? If you go after education, you make schools less effective or you lay off teachers or perhaps you make college less affordable. Will those things keep them in office? This might be an apocalypse