So. The Super Committee. Yeah. Let’s stop calling them “super”, shall we?
It was so nice to think of this bi-partisan group of Congressional budget experts, a super squad of deficit crusaders, sitting in a conference room in the Capitol with reams of paper and some adding machines, working diligently to assure our national financial future. We could all imagine them calling over to the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office to ask the smart economists for important data that they could use in their calculations. The could have celebrated the announcement about troop draw-downs as numbers into the “cut” column, because, as we all know, the unfunded wars are a large driver of the spending problems in our country. They could have made hard but sensible decisions about how to close raise revenues and cut programs in a way that did the least harm and served the greatest good, promoted the general welfare, if you will. Just like it says in the Preamble of the Constitution.
That was totally not what was happening.
What appears to have happened instead is that the Republicans said “No taxes! Grover says no taxes!” and the Democrats said “Wait, what? Grover? Why is Sesame Street covering taxes? And why are you watching Sesame Street?”. Then the Republicans reminded the Democrats about an obscure neocon figure from the 80s named Grover Norquist who convinced them all to sign a no new taxes oath and they’re all terrified to break it because either Grover will break their kneecaps or they won’t get reelected. The Democrats then said “Oh! Right! The election. Yeah. Let’s think about that.” And both parties thought about the election a lot and the Republicans decided that any new revenue would hurt their election chances and the Democrats decided too many cuts would hurt their election chances and they all just gave up. Because elections are important.
This is the moment where we all say “fuck” a lot.
The reason these guys failed to created a plan is the election, make no mistake. The Super Committee was appointed to make a plan for cutting the deficit that would need to be approved by the whole Congress. That was never going to happen. Even if the twelve people in the room had been able to come up with a compromise plan, the full chambers would not have been able to agree to it. Leadership of each party would have been forced to object to large chunks of the plan on ideological grounds and would have directed their caucuses to vote against it. Leadership clings stubbornly to ideology because without it, they’re terrified that their base will turn into the angry mob from Shrek and try to burn them out of their offices on election day. They’re also terrified that making the wrong cut or closing the wrong tax loophole will piss off some major trade group who will withhold their campaign dollars as revenge.
In other words, they would rather NOT make policy because that’s safer for the bottom line, i.e. total number of Congressional seats held by their party. Policy outcomes are secondary. The general welfare is secondary. We are secondary until we have a check or a ballot in our hands.
Now, there will be cuts. That was the plan before the not-so-super committee ever got together in their Fortress of Folly. The deal was if the committee couldn’t come up with a plan or Congress couldn’t pass a plan if they did come up with one, a prearranged package of cuts would be implemented. I don’t remember make-up of the planned cuts right now but I know they hit the defense budget hard. I’m hoping that will work by pulling more troops out of Afghanistan but I doubt it’s that simple. Anyway, the President has already taken a hard line and told Congress not to try any funny stuff with the pre-arranged cuts because he’d veto that shit so fast John Boehner’s orange head would spin. (Did I ever tell you about the time I was at a reception where John Boehner was speaking and he stood in front of a blue wall while waiting his turn at the mic? He looked like a tangerine standing in front of that shade of blue. It was really comical.). So, there will be cuts and the deficit will be reduced. Boom.
None of which solves unemployment, housing costs and the foreclosure problem, the issue of the war in Afghanistan costing lives as well as money, and the fact that health insurance costs are spiking.
I’ve really got no real wrap up to this rant. No solutions to the quagmire present themselves except for massive campaign finance reform to change the attitude of politicians toward donors, replacing all members of the Budget and Appropriations committees with non-profit managers and a PhD candidates in economics, and for all of us to vote. Vote like our future depends on it.