WASHINGTON — If you scan the websites of various tea party groups and their allies, you will find plenty of references to "less government,""lower taxes,""fiscal responsibility" and "more freedom."
What you'll find much less of are the programs that have brought — and will continue to bring — bigger government, higher taxes and less fiscal responsibility.
These are Social Security and Medicare, the major programs supporting retirees. In 1990, they represented 28 percent of federal spending; last year, this was 37 percent; and by the projections of the Congressional Budget Office, it will be 43 percent in 2023.
You can ascribe the mismatch between tea party rhetoric and the budgetary realities to pragmatism.
Even tea party groups know that Social Security and Medicare are wildly popular.
To attack them head on would be a political death wish.
There is more than a little hypocrisy in the self-righteous assault on the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), which — compared to Social Security and Medicare — is a sideshow in shaping the government's future size and role.
That the fixation with Obamacare has now led to a government "shutdown" is bad policy and politics. For all its flaws, Obamacare was duly passed by Congress, upheld by the Supreme Court and (indirectly) affirmed by the 2012 election.
Government cannot function if determined minorities threaten to stop many of its operations every time they lose a major vote. Americans dislike disorder; they will (rightly) blame congressional Republicans for the shutdown's disruptions and any economic ill effects.