Getting Ready for a Super Fail?
Imagine you could pick 12 people to solve America’s problems. Would you seriously consider sending in many of the same politicians who got us into this mess?
Unfortunately, that was the hand we were dealt in August with the super committee. Twelve “super” members of Congress were selected to supersede procedure to come up with a “super” deal that would eliminate at least $1.2 trillion worth of future debt over the next ten years. The irony in this is that as soon as President Obama and the Democrats won a “super” majority in Congress they spent $1 trillion in a single bill (Obamacare) and are now trying to reduce the debt by the same amount. And they can’t find anything to cut?
Brian Wesbury broke down the numbers:
“According to the Congressional Budget Office, total federal government outlays in the next 10 years (2012-2021) are expected to be $44 trillion, while GDP will total $195 trillion. If we assume that the committee does not raise taxes at all, which means the $1.2 trillion is all spending reduction, this would equal just 2.7% of the budget, and 0.6% of GDP.”
Aside from that, the super committee really isn’t so different from any other Congressional committee – except the whole country is watching them and they are working broadly, rather than with one specific segment of the economy (e.g. the Finance Committee). Major Garrett has written a brilliant markup of the super committee for The National Journal:
“This was supposed to make the work easier. The 12 super-committee members were given a magic carpet upon which to ride over the procedural mire, a cudgel to beat insensate all filibuster trolls. Process can trump politics—but only when policy comes together first. This hasn’t happened, which is why this is an awful thought experiment. Congress will soon learn elevating process over policy as a means of sidestepping politics is delusional.
“Happily, this is the biggest unintended success of the super committee. As constructed, it could have become a vehicle to continuously subvert congressional authority, erasing the necessary regional and policy-based power centers that arise from the committee system. Instead, the super committee writhes in agony before an utterly arbitrary Thanksgiving-eve deadline (turkey jokes are just too damn easy, folks). It’s now considering a ‘two-step’ process of proposing entitlement cuts or tax increases (or tax-code reform that would yield more revenue while lowering rates) that House and Senate committees would then draft and pass. This ‘two-step’ process has a name: regular order. What happens under regular order is a group of powerful lawmakers set an agenda and the committees work their will in pursuit of a legislative compromise. It’s the way Congress has worked, by and large, since March 4, 1789.
“Alongside this ‘two-step’ idea, panicky questions have arisen. What’s the penalty if the ‘regular’ committees don’t do what the super committee recommends? This has it all backwards. America has not sorted out the politics of big-ticket deficit reduction. There is no consensus—flimsy or durable—about how much to tax, whom to tax, or whose benefits to cut and by how much. That’s what elections accomplish, or partially accomplish.”
Our political system has been turned upside down in order to get some sort of deal, and neither political party is willing to give (well, Democrats refuse to accept that the true problem in this country is runaway spending and $63 trillion in unfunded entitlement promises).
Of course, The Heritage Foundation has a wealth of research explaining just how to tackle our debt problem, including transforming entitlements so that they no longer bankrupt us and increasing revenues by growing the economy not crushing it.
What we can’t do is gut defense. We also can’t let the super committee become the first super committee.