Putting a Tea Partier to the test

PUTTING A TEA PARTIER TO THE TEST…. It may seem hard to believe, but when voters elect conservative Tea Party candidates to cut taxes, and those same voters expect public services to remain intact, the results aren’t pretty.

Take Long Island’s Nassau County, for example.

Facing a huge budget deficit when he took office in January, Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano did not impose a hiring freeze. He did not stop borrowing to subsidize some of the richest school districts in the country. He did not eliminate the Police Department’s beloved mounted unit.

Instead, Mr. Mangano, a Republican who won one of the first upsets of the Tea Party era, did what he had promised: He cut taxes, adding $40 million to the county’s deficit, which has since reached nearly $350 million.

Now, with its bonds suddenly downgraded and a state oversight agency preparing to seize its checkbook and credit cards, Nassau is on the verge of a full-fledged fiscal crisis.

You don’t say.

The NYT report noted this as a classic example of taxpayers “accustomed to high levels of services” struggling to adapt to “protracted lean times.” There may be some truth to that, but this is actually an example of a larger lesson — locals in Nassau County aren’t just reluctant to part with public services they want and appreciate, they chose a county executive to cut their taxes at the same time.

It’s one thing to balk when budget shortfalls lead to painful cutbacks; it’s something else to make matters much worse by electing a Tea Partier who’ll push your community into receivership.

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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.