Pope Francis, Hillary Clinton, and the Tea Party victory in the shutdown battle

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I have repeatedly written, to no effect in official Washington, that it was insane to increase the payroll tax, create the sequester, dramatically cut spending, and impose budget austerity at a time when the real jobless rate is almost 14 percent. The behavior of the Tea Party and the right during the shutdown fiasco has created lasting political damage to the GOP in terms of economic policy, but their force-feeding of austerity was a gigantic victory for them in terms of political economics.

It was the president and Democrats who surrendered to economic austerity — a subject rarely discussed in a media that, with few very exceptions, does not give a rats ass about poverty and joblessness. It was the Tea Party and conservatives who stood firm behind their principle of austerity, and on this matter they won a great victory, no matter how misguided their policies may be. 

Had the Tea Party members of the House claimed credit for winning the budget cuts and set aside their obsession against ObamaCare, they would have won public credit for the cuts. And without the shutdown and default threats, the eyes of the nation would have turned to the inexplicable incompetence and bungling of key aspects of administering the healthcare law. 

Who is the powerful voice of progressives in Washington, on matters of creating jobs and fighting poverty, comparable to the Tea Party's passion of the right? The answer: There is none. It sure isn't President Obama, who has done nothing in four years to fight for dramatic job programs, and whose voice for the poor is timid and quiet compared to passion of the tea party and the right. 

The world's great champion of the poor is the pope, not the president. Pope Francis may well be a historically transcendent pope on the matter of helping the poor in a view shared by almost all of the great religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. In America and elsewhere, the great battle should be between the perspective offered by Ayn Rand — the atheist I have called the guru of greed, the apostle for austerity for everyone except herself, whose gospel is admired by the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee — and the passion for the poor of the pope and great presidents named Roosevelt and Kennedy. 

My advice to Hillary Clinton is to bring back two words that have been lost in American politics and lost in nations throughout the world, words that were once the public trust of progressives everywhere. Those words are: Full employment. I'd like to see Clinton start giving speeches, the sooner the better, using the words "full employment" and beginning the great and huge debate that this nation, and our world, urgently needs. 

The Tea Party and the right have their passionate champions who have just won the economic victory I credit them for here (with objectivity, but without any pleasure). It would be great for the world, and the poor, and the jobless if the rest of us could find equally passionate champions for what we believe is right. 

As the next round of budget negotiations begins, we should not be debating how much austerity to impose and how much more pain to allocate to the impoverished and the poor. We should be discussing how many new jobs to create and how to bring about those two words that should reenter our national debate and be echoed around the world: full employment.