One of the most encouraging movements toward fiscal common sense in the United States over the past couple of years has been the tea party. We don't capitalize that term because most people who associate with the tea party do not see it as a formal political party.
While the tea party movement's supporters have a range of views on different issues, they focus heavily on urging wise financial stewardship in Washington, where that stewardship has been lacking for far too long.
The tea party's principles have resonated so strongly with so many Americans that the movement is credited with helping hand control of the U.S. House of Representatives to Republicans in the 2010 elections.
More recently, the tea party helped ensure that the deal in Congress on raising the debt limit included some real spending cuts. That deal is far from perfect, of course, and a threat of higher taxes lingers. But without the tea party's influence, lawmakers might have raised taxes massively and might have done almost nothing to reduce Washington's breakneck spending.
Unfortunately, because the tea party has been so effective, some politicians who oppose its ideas have been attacking the tea party -- viciously in some cases.
According to multiple sources who attended a closed-door meeting of House Democrats, Vice President Joe Biden said tea party-backed Republicans "acted like terrorists" during the debt-limit debate, the website Politico.com reported.
He later denied saying that, but he acknowledged that others had used the word "terrorists." One reportedly said that in dealing with the tea party, "We have negotiated with terrorists. This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend any money."
That's absurd. First, Washington obviously is going to continue spending far too much. With well over $3 trillion annual budgets -- much of it borrowed money -- there is no chance it will become "impossible" for Congress to spend.
But it is equally ridiculous to suggest that the tea party is linked to terrorism. Those who are affiliated with the tea party have peacefully exercised their constitutional rights of speech and assembly to seek change in Washington. They are not violent.
The tea party is a patriotic movement. If anything, it deserves high praise for trying to bring economic discipline to Washington.