Geithner glad to see Tea Partiers come around

GEITHNER GLAD TO SEE TEA PARTIERS COME AROUND…. On “Meet the Press,” host David Gregory asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to reflect a bit on the Tea Partiers, particularly in light of April 15 events this week. I found Geithner’s response kind of interesting.

“We’ve just been through eight years where people said — many people said, ‘Deficits don’t matter. We can pass huge tax cuts, pass huge new programs without paying for them.’ That debate has changed fundamentally.

“Now you don’t hear people say anymore, ‘Deficits don’t matter.’ You don’t hear people saying that we can pass enormous expansion of government without paying for it. That’s an important change. I think all Americans understand that our deficits are unsustainable. And I think that’ll be helpful as we move to try to make the hard choices to bring them down again.”

I didn’t see the video of this, only the transcript, so it’s hard to say whether Geithner was actually being coy with his comments. But what I liked about his response was its subtle underpinnings.

The Treasury secretary’s remarks, which apparently came at the very end of the interview, effectively told the Tea Party crowd, “Oh, now you’re worried about fiscal responsibility. While Bush and the Republicans were taking fiscal irresponsibility to new depths with tax cuts and government expansion without paying for it, you kept on supporting them, but now you care.”

The subtext is politically relevant — for folks who are literally taking to the streets to complain about budget shortfalls, the real rage should be directed at the Republican gang that turned surpluses into deficits, and added $5 trillion to the debt.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.