They sat around in a semi-circle, ignoring calls to get themselves real jobs, and made loud noises while offering few concrete legislative proposals. They couldn't even agree on the specific purpose of their organization, and while many Americans supported their group's agenda in the abstract, the participants ultimately did nothing but tarnish their institution's brand and undermine confidence in the possibility of lasting political change.
I speak, of course, of the 12 dirty hippies occupying…the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction…
Rather than making a final effort at compromise, members of the special deficit-reduction committee spent their final hours casting blame and pointing fingers, bracing for the reaction from financial markets that are already jittery over the European debt crisis. Half of the 12 lawmakers turned to the Sunday political news shows as their outlet, speaking of their effort in the past tense and accusing the other side of intransigence that they blamed for the failure to clinch a deal. There were no last-minute negotiations, no behind-closed-doors huddles, just a near-empty Capitol in which senior aides could not agree on how to formally shutter the panel by Monday night…
Barring a last-second breakthrough, the law calls for a punitive set of $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts to kick in at the start of 2013, with half coming from national security budgets. [Senator Jon] Kyl and other lawmakers have embraced reconfiguring the automatic cuts to save the Pentagon from such steep cuts, but any movement that decreases the overall savings runs the risk of causing financial ratings agencies to downgrade the U.S. Treasury’s debt.
The $1.2 trillion in automatic sequestration was designed to force members of the supercommittee to create a more nuanced plan for deficit reduction, but given the difficulty of compromise, some lawmakers would rather just defuse the "trigger." Which would seem to be a case of noncompliance with the Budget Control Act of 2011, the debt ceiling deal that created the panel. And we all know the appropriate response to "noncompliance," right?
But even if members of the supercommittee aren't pepper-sprayed, there's a bright side to the panel's dismal performance. Failure to reach a deal preserves the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, which would create more deficit reduction than any deal likely to be concocted by the supercommittee. So perhaps we still have some time before financial markets and the international community forces us to give up on the democracy thing and bow down before our technocratic overlords.
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Tags: Debt, Deficit, House of Representatives, Jon Kyl, Money