The consequences of Tea Party-style arithmetic

THE CONSEQUENCES OF TEA PARTY-STYLE ARITHMETIC…. Voters in Long Island’s Nassau County seemed to believe electing a Tea Partier would be a great idea. I have a hunch they’re living with some regret now.

In late 2009, locals elected Edward P. Mangano as their county executive — one of the first big upset victories for the so-called “movement” — after running on a predictable platform. Mangano would slash taxes, cut spending, and create a nice little utopia. Voters loved the sound of it.

A year later, “Eddie” had slashed taxes as promised, but struggled to limit public services that the community had grown to appreciate. This week, the consequences of Tea Party economics became clear — Nassau County, facing a full-fledged fiscal crisis, saw its finances taken over by the state.

The [tax cut policy] set Mangano on an immediate collision course with the state-appointed fiscal overseer, the Nassau County Interim Financial Authority, or NIFA. It culminated in NIFA seizing control of the wealthy New York county’s finances on Wednesday.

Nassau’s ills exemplify the growing tension across the country as dozens of freshly-elected Tea Party lawmakers, many of whom promised to cut taxes, must find ways to slash record budget gaps as revenues dwindle.

“A lot of people who got elected on this type of anti-tax platform are running into the brick wall of fiscal reality,” said Matthew Gardner, executive director of the non-partisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy in Washington.

Besides being a cautionary tale, the setback in Nassau County is a black eye for the Tea Party, the grassroots movement built around the core principles of constitutionally limited government, free-market ideology and low taxes.

Mangano stressed a “tax revolt” platform as a candidate, but few bothered to notice that his numbers just didn’t — indeed, couldn’t — add up. He ran against an incumbent who felt like he had no choice but to tell voters the truth — he’d have to raise taxes to prevent a disaster — and the public didn’t care for it.

Mangano didn’t quite understand the county’s fiscal problems, but proceeded with his agenda anyway. And now we see the consequences.

Tea Party economics always sound nice, right up until these ridiculous ideas are actually implemented.