“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

No, it's not Chicken Little, the children's fable about a chicken who believes the world is coming to an end. It's the doe-eyed "deficit hawk" Republicans and their tea party pals.

Like Chicken Little, the Republicans and the tea party have a hysterical and mistaken belief that disaster is imminent, that the apocalypse is just around the corner, that the end is nigh, that...if we don't gut those "costly" and "undeserved" entitlement programs while stripping public sector unions of their collective bargaining rights the world will come an end.

Sound fishy? Well, it is!

Here in Missouri, the Republican "deficit hawks" are holding unemployment extensions hostage in the name of cutting the federal deficit. For now, the state, with a 9 percent unemployment rate, is the only state that has stopped accepting dedicated federal dollars to extend unemployment payments to 99 weeks from 79. However, republican leaders in Michigan, Arkansas and Florida have also taken steps to limit their state's unemployment benefits.

"This is about sending a message to the federal government from the state of Missouri that enough is enough," Republican State Senator Jim Lembke told reporters. "The federal government is sending us money they don't have."

In all, if unemployment extensions are cut, it is estimated that 24,000 Missouri families will be impacted.

Additionally, Missouri republicans want Governor Jay Nixon to cut $300 million from stimulus-funded jobs programs. Missouri received $538 million in federal stimulus money to fund projects that have been approved by the legislature twice, in 2009 and 2010. However, since Missouri has not spent all of the money it must be "reappropiated" by the legislature this year.

Much of the stimulus money would go to public schools to pay for teachers who work with low-income children and special education, improving childcare, maintaining and updating highways and computerizing medical records.

Republicans also want to cut a $170 million weatherization program and a $22 million high-speed rail study. One Republican leader referred to these programs as  "some of the most horrific, stupid, egregious spending that we could ever use taxpayer dollars - oh I'm sorry, Chinese dollars - to pay for."  

And, of course, these Republicans also want to continue to cut state workers' salaries and benefits, while arguing for so-called "paycheck protection" legislation that would, according to the Missouri State Workers' Union, "destroy our union" by imposing up to an $8 surcharge on pay-roll dues deductions.  

Like Chicken Little, the Republicans and tea party are trying to incite unreasonable fear of a looming budget deficit apocalypse - as if we've never had a budget deficit before, as if the current deficit wasn't caused by their policies under their watch with their president at the helm!

According to economist Dean Baker, the deficit crisis is a "manufactured crisis." He adds, "The basic story is very simple and one that we have known since Keynes. We need to create demand in the economy. The problem is that as a society, we are not spending enough to keep the economy running at capacity."

In short, since the private sector isn't employing enough people to create and boost consumer demand, the federal government has to step in and spend money to jumpstart the economy, which until recently was showing signs of progress, as unemployment has been steadily dropping and consumer spending is up.

So what are the Republicans and the tea party so afraid of? Why are they running around crying, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"

Could it be that their real goal is to cause widespread Chicken Little Syndrome. CLS is defined as: Inferring catastrophic conclusions based on faulty reasoning that can possibly result in paralysis, despair or passivity among a target audience.

While Chicken Little is just a child's tale, one thing is clear: Our vital social safety net is under attack due to a manufactured crisis caused by the Republicans and their tea party palls. 

Just wait until they start "crying wolf."