Super Failure

November 21st, 2011 at 3:32 pm | 62 Comments |

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“Failure is not an option.”

“Well, maybe it is.”

Such sums up the work of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (JSC) formed last August with the task of finding $1.2-1.5 trillion in deficit savings during the next decade.

Some sort of cobbled-together semi-deal may emerge from talks Monday afternoon, but it will be far from $1.2 trillion in real savings. Worse, JSC’s abject failure leaves Congress with a 45 day period in which to address or postpone serious issues.

How did we get to this pass?

First, political imperatives for 2012 overwhelmed fiscal imperatives that might not cause damage to the American people or economy until 2013 or later. Short term pain for long term gain is not something that humans often endorse. With humans that crave approval as politicians do, it is rare indeed.

Second, President Obama decided to wash his hands of the entire matter. He has presented his budget, his spokesmen said, and has tried to negotiate an agreement with House Speaker John Boehner, only to have the Speaker walk out.

Third, market reaction to the Continuing Resolution for FY11 earlier this year, and especially the failure of any substantial negative market reaction to the debt ceiling debacle, persuaded many Members of Congress that as long as Europe was in turmoil, failure of the JSC would cause little panic among investors.

Fourth, leadership in both chambers and within both parties exercised strong control over their three members of the JSC. The 12 members of the JSC didn’t fail; the four caucuses wouldn’t let them succeed. The reasoning was simple. If voters want to throw all the bums out, that helps House Democrats (they have fewer bums than the GOP majority). And, in the Senate, throwing all the bums out would turn the Senate over to GOP control.

Meanwhile, “the bums” were busy at damage control. Scores of Members signed letters to the JSC. They held rallies on Capitol Hill. They voted for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. They went home to their districts and states and proclaimed eternal damnation to deficits and cursed the opposition. It was great theater. And, it may have inoculated some of them against charges that they had been sent to Washington to change things and “didn’t get the job done.”

Various theories now fill the media. Some claim the sequester in January, 2013, will never happen. Since it will take a new law to undo the sequester provisions of the Budget Control Act, and it is unlikely that either party will have 60 or more votes in the Senate, that claim will soon founder on the rocks of legislative reality.

Some hope that the Budget Committees in the House and Senate can pass a budget, complete with Reconciliation Instructions that will force the individual committees of Congress to change programs in order to save the $1.2 trillion. Since the Senate hasn’t been able to pass a budget in two years, that line of reasoning seems fruitless.

Ideologues on both sides can now be pleased. Folks who think that America can keep its commitments in health and pensions will continue saying that until American can’t. Others who claim that any new taxes will ruin the economy will be validated until lack of revenues undermines the education and infrastructure of the nation and things go “boom.”

If a recession hits the United States early next year, a 50-50 chance it seems to us, it will be a recession that starts from 9% unemployment. Since this hasn’t happened in the United States since the Great Depression, we cannot know what the consequences will be.

But, as Scarlett O’Hara said, “Tomorrow I will find a way…after all, tomorrow is another day.”

And, perhaps the members of the 112th Congress will find many of their colleagues “gone with the wind.”

Recent Posts by Steve Bell



62 Comments so far ↓

  • Fart Carbuncle

    Let the mandatory cuts come.

    It is time.

    • Kevin B

      I agree. That, along with the automatic expiration of the Bush/Obama tax cuts, will have a huge impact on the deficit.

      If Congress can come up with a compromise that reaches the same or similar goals, more power to them.

      I’m no longer in danger of being in the top tax bracket, but the increase in taxes on investment gains and (especially) dividends will hit me rather hard. Still, if the economy starts to grow again due to sane fiscal policy, I stand to make a lot of money on the recovery, and I will happily pay my fair share of taxes on my windfall.

      • armstp

        100% agree. Let the entire Bush tax cuts expire and take 20% out of the military budget. Problem solved and no more BS.

      • Crime Dog

        Finally the do-nothing Congress will be a benefit to society!

  • He Loved Big Brother

    Pleeeeaaaaase…… Enough of the false equivalencies! the GOP is determined that they will not cooperate, they are determined that they will not govern, they are determined that the mechanics of government will fail. Why spread the blame evenly!!! We are only in this situation due to the ridgid ideology of the GOP, and it is amply represented in the behaviour of the GOP members of the JSC. I would suggest, Steve, that you read Mr. Frum’s article, as you may learn something.

    The best counterpoint to your article is to write, repeatedly “why, oh why, can’t we have a better press corps?”

    • Fart Carbuncle

      Don’t put all the blame on the GOP. The Dems are concrete on their demands for more wealth redistribution from the remaining 49% who pay taxes. Non-starter.

      We have to wait until Jan 2013 for any resolution. I just hope it’s either side with a majority in both houses and the WH to go one way or the other.

      • jdd_stl1

        The Democrats were not going for wealth distribution.
        They were going for shared pain and sacrifice.
        If you are going to ask for the poor and elderly to shoulder some
        of the burden then have the courage to ask the wealthy to
        sacrifice a little.

        • Chris Balsz

          That’s wealth distribution.

        • Solo4114

          You know what? Yeah. It is. And so what? At a certain level, wealth distribution and ALL classes in society feeling that things operate in a reasonably fair manner is essential to any functional modern society. The OWS protesters may not be particularly effective at causing political change, but they do represent something that ought to make the wealthy a bit uneasy: the hoi polloi are getting pissed. And while plenty of people will remain resigned to their fate, and plenty will side with the wealthy, how long can that continue? How long can the rich-poor gap increase before the poor get REALLY pissed and start chanting “Eat the rich”?

          Personally, I don’t want that. I don’t want it to come to that, and I don’t think it needs to, but for starters we have to get away from the notion that ANY wealth distribution is inherently evil. It is not. You can have stratification of society, even across a wide economic range, but there still has to be some shared sense of fairness at a basic level. Right now, that’s not the case, and that is fundamentally dangerous.

          It’s time for conservatives to ask themselves which they prize more: wealth and the ideology of “earned” wealth, or social stability and predictability? They may feel that they have both — and I’d argue that they do…for the moment. But that moment may prove fleeting if things get worse, and simply waiting around and hoping the “invisible hand” will automagically make it better strikes me as tempting fate.

        • wileedog

          If tax cuts for the wealthy while slashing Medicare a la the Ryan plan aren’t wealth redistribution, how come raising taxes on the wealthy is?

          And who really cares about a label anyway? Its shifting the burden for fixing this mess on to the people who have unquestionably benefited the most from the policies that created it.

      • jdd_stl1

        And if you are looking for someone to blame for so many
        people not paying Federal Income taxes, read these quotes:

        http://www.bessettepitney.net/2011/08/removing-people-from-income-tax-rolls.html

  • Nanotek

    am glad they “failed” … the American people, like those in Wisconsin, are now presented with very clear options

  • Graychin

    After all their hand-wringing about deficits and debt, it turned out that Republicans care a lot more about keeping taxes low for people making more than $1 million per year.

    Who could have seen that coming?

    • Grace

      Seriously, was anyone actually thinking this would amount to anything? Grover was on 60 minutes last night smugly informing us that every GOPer dances on his string, and he does mean every last one. It was clear from the get-go this would fail unless the Dems completely rolled and agreed to put all of the burden on the middle class and the poor. So far that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, so the automatic cuts will kick in and they’ll spend the next year quietly restoring all the cuts that impact their corporate owners — defense, financials, health care, etc.

  • TerryF98

    Failure IS the best option. I welcome this failure.

    At least the can’t F*CK up doing nothing, can they?

  • Pavonis

    If the ECB doesn’t decide to blow up the world economy, the budget will balance itself in the coming years as the Bush tax cuts expire and the wars in the Middle East wind down. This fixes almost the entire deficit problem immediately. No need for Congress to do anything.

  • Oldskool

    It was about as hard to predict as last night’s darkness.

  • jdd_stl1

    And of course, President Obama will be blamed for a lack of leadership.
    But of course, if he had been more involved he would be blamed for getting
    in the way.
    And of course, anything President Obama suggested would be DOA just
    because he suggested it.

    As I understand it the Democrats line in the sand was no cuts to
    SS and Medicare without revenue increases from the wealthy.

    The Republican line in the sand was no tax increases.

    Which of those two sounds like the party that is ready and willing to
    compromise?

    And I’m still waiting for someone from the right to tell me
    what was so wrong with the way things were at the end of
    the Clinton years.
    http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,96747,00.html

    It will be a political gamble but I say let the Bush tax cuts all expire
    and don’t back down on the automatic cuts that kick in with the
    “super” committee failure.

    • SerenityNow

      Your points are cogent and intelligent so I sincerely doubt that either side will be inclined to adjust their position. But, I note that Sen. Graham has already announced that we must save the DOD from any drastic cuts or sequestration even as President Obama hints at a veto. I suspect that despite Grover Norquist’s latest brush with bad publicity he will maintain his stranglehold on Republicans in Congress and their will be no real attempts at governance until the next election cycle.

      Grab the popcorn, folks, because this game is still in the early stages.

  • medinnus

    *chuckles* Given that all but the idiot GOP fringe – also known as the base, who believe six impossible lies before Noon each day – can simply look at the legislative obstructionism of the GOP, the blame for this failure will fall squarely on the Republicans in 2012.

    Sad, and bad for the country, but without a sane branch, the GOP hopefully will get the exile into the wilderness they so richly deserve.

    • Reflection Ephemeral

      the base, who believe six impossible lies before Noon each day

      Huh, I’d wondered where they’d gotten the monicker “Tea Party.”

      As to the substance, He Loved Big Brother is correct above. The Republican Party is dead set and immovable on the notion that raising any tax anywhere ever is unconstitutional Satanic fascism. Here’s their version of “compromise”, from Jared Bernstein:

      Also too, people have been lying to Mr. Carbuncle, above, as to who pays taxes.

  • jdd_stl1

    One area where I think President Obama could have done better
    is if he had “pulled a Perot” and used some charts to educate
    the American people about what the deficit/debt problem really is
    and where the government actually spends money.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-insiders/post/why-didnt-obama-lead-on-the-debt-supercommittee/2011/11/21/gIQACzLNiN_blog.html?hpid=z4

    But then again, it probably wouldn’t have made a difference. He would have
    been made fun of by the GOP for using a teleprompter AND charts
    and the American people would probably still believe whatever Fox and Rush
    told them.

  • Radsenior

    We knew this would happen! The role of the government is to protect the people from out side forces and provide for the general welfare of the people. The first question that comes to mind is: Why is there a greater allegiance towards and for a lobbyist like Grover Norquist, than the American public or economy? The concentration of wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people and the concentration of power in stricter, less compassionate hands in all aspects of local, state and the federal government has colored the TEA/GOP/Republicans as the tormentors of the American dream. The economy is the issue and it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs! Typical TEA/GOP/republican maneuver to throw yet another wrench into the works! Why do the TEA/GOP/Republican membership pledge to a lobbyist they would hold to not raising taxes? Once again every American is taken to the edge of default, even at the expense of all they hold close. With calls across the nation to tax the elite 1%-ers and spread the pain over a larger segment of tax payers. Entitlement reform should not to be one of the points to be discussed. Messing with deductions and “Loop-hole’s” hurt’s every American and does not increase taxes on the top tier, who have protected by the TEA/GOP/Republicans. UN bashing is not staying on target to generate jobs as the TEA/GOP?Republicans promised in 2010! Yeah Buddy! All the gloom and doom brought about by the TEA/GOP/Republican parties holding the economy hostage! It’s amazing how the radical right-winged confrontational elite fringe keep saying it the president fault, when every American history class attended educated us in the fact that the Congress hold the purse strings, taxes and legislation. The economy is the issue and it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs! Rick Perry and all the TEA/GOP/Republican candidates have signed yet another pledge to Bob Vander Plaats after signing a pledge to Grover Norquist signing away self control. The pledge advocates several issues, including the Defense of Marriage Act, personal fidelity to the signee’s spouse(Oops for Gingrich), appointment of “faithful constitutionalists” as judges, and reformation of anti-marriage elements in divorce, tax and welfare laws. All the pledges these extreme TEA/GOP/Republican candidates sign show they are in cahoots with strange bed fellows on taking total control of every aspect of American life. The first question that comes to mind is: Why is there a greater allegiance towards and for people like Bob Vander Plaats and lobbyist like Grover Norquist, than the American public or economy? These people are the puppet-masters of the TEA/.GOP/Republican fringe! I would prefer a candidate will Kahunas to be the candidate, rather than anyone’s puppet!

  • Ray_Harwick

    Second, President Obama decided to wash his hands of the entire matter. He has presented his budget, his spokesmen said, and has tried to negotiate an agreement with House Speaker John Boehner, only to have the Speaker walk out.

    Wait a minute… Who washed his hands here? Looks like Boehner did the perp walk.

    When Obama left his hands **off** of the Super process so it wouldn’t be politicized, who knew the first roar from the Tea Party upon hearing about the Super Failure would be to blame Obama?

    Frum is right. The Right just wants “leaders” who repeat what Fox News and Limbaugh feed them and we just got an example – all predicated upon Mitch McConnell’s single purpose from Day 1 to make Obama a one-term president no matter what he did.

  • Ray_Harwick

    Well what will congress do now that Obama has promised (moments ago) to VETO any attempt to remove the trigger on the deficit reduction! My God! How ***conservative*** of him!

    • ottovbvs

      He boxed em! hahaa

      • medinnus

        Once more, Obama ropes-a-dope.

        “Dont throw me in that briar patch over there, Bre’r Boehner!”

    • Bingham

      If he made that promise, then kudos for him and I hope he keeps his word.

      • ottovbvs

        He did…and why wouldn’t he? It leaves him in a perfect position to force the Republicans to recognize the inanity of their resistance to tax increases. They are going to be under huge pressure from defense industry.

  • Oldskool

    David Gergen is clutching his pearls and acting surprised again. I liked him better when he played Aunt Bee on Mayberry. The whole CNN crew is acting surprised. Have they been gazing at their navels all year?

    • Ray_Harwick

      I’ve been laughing at your post a llllll evening. Thanks.

    • Traveler

      Priceless. MSM at its best. With supposed impartial media so inept, how can we blame Faux? At least we can turn the channel away from them.

  • Sinan

    The national news media is filled with one empty suit after another. Most of the regular posters on FF could do a better job at punditry than any of these hacks. Frum himself is far superior to any of the right wing nuts who keep getting air time in an Alice in Wonderland skit where you get to keep saying anything you want and no one ever calls you on your bullsh_t. It is a club for self-promotion with not a single shred of integrity among them. Of all the young educated folks in the world to put on TV it just happens that Like Russert is the best one? Now a Clinton kid gets a shot. Can we drag up a stuffed version of Reagan and put a microphone in his mouth so he can lip synch on Fox News? Our media is a joke, total corporate hijacking intended to provide drivel at the lowest costs possible without any associated duty as the fourth estate. Thankfully there are blogs like this around or thinking men and women could honestly believe that the nation is filled with severely handicapped mental midgets.

  • lizerdmonk

    What a disgrace all these politicians can’t do there jobs and govern our country for our best interest and just are out for there own special interest. The whole thing is shameful and they all should be held accountable on both sides of the aisle and voted out of office. It’s time for us the People to do something about it.

    • Bingham

      Well, it’s a good thing that you’re capable of higher-level cognition, lizerdmonk, because that’s what separates You from Them. Luckily for us, them’s too stupid to catch on.

  • ottovbvs

    This committee was a leftover from the completely Republican manufactured debt ceiling crisis which did considerable harm to our country but as events unfold one begins to understand just how smart the president was. He got the debt ceiling raised until the election is safely out of the way in return for a few modest cuts and this committee which if it failed locked us into 1.2 trillion of cuts that don’t happen until after the election and almost half of which fall on defense. Now Republicans want to try and renege on this deal he’s threatening to veto any attempts to overturn these deficit reducing cuts. He’s got the GOP between a rock and hard place for the next year. True they have the potential to block legislation to keep the government functioning, extending the payroll tax holiday, extending unemployment benefit etc but this is going to put them on the wrong side of a lot of highly emotive arguments. It’s been said before but Obama is playing chess while these jokers are playing checkers.

    • Bingham

      I’m interested to see how the Republicans will address the divide between those who favor the military-industrial complex and those who favor fiscal restraint. That conversation needs to be had. Now more than ever.

    • Traveler

      And that’s exactly what they will do. As the payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits run out, the POGers will start to look pretty meanhearted to even the most brain-dead twitchers in the electorate. Couple that with a shutdown again, and independents will start to really wonder. They have truly boxed themselves in and they cannot get out without shooting themselves (and our economy) in the foot. It kind of reminds me of my dog- couldn’t keep from chasing skunks, and kept coming back all stinky. Its just what they do. But tomato sauce baths won’t be enough. I still want to take that Intrade bet.

  • sdspringy

    First of all the concept of the Super Committee was doomed any way. Ten years of cuts could not be forced pass the 2012 elections.

    Secondly the amount, 1.2 TRILLION over 10 years is a joke. That is only 120 BILLION a year. We currently over spend EVERY YEAR 1400 BILLION. So really whats the point, the deficit was not even being reduce by 10%, a very weak effort by any standard.

    Third Democrats demand more revenue and want to raise the tax rates, that is incredibly stupid. GE filed a 57 page tax return reporting 14 BILLION in profits and paid ZERO taxes. Now who really believes that raising the corporate tax rate to 40, 50, 60 percent will result in more tax revenue. Similarly wealthy people pay at a 35% rate, yet Democrats think raising the rate will result in additional revenue. Wealthy people are wealthy because they know how to handle money, anyone really think that raising the rate will result in more revenue???

    So a stalmate is the best possible solution, no additional spending, no additional taxes is probably the best current solution till the Republicans sweep the Dems out of the Senate just like they swept them out of the House in 2010.

    • wileedog

      So tie tax reform into the debate and include the results in the revenue projections. Heck if you get GE paying their full share on 14 Billion in revenue you may not even need to raise the personal income taxes.

      And I’ll never get the current GOP argument that raising revenues wouldn’t be enough to solve our problem so we shouldn’t do it at all. What’s wrong with getting part way there and then trying to find other avenues to finish the job (yes, including entitlement reform)?

  • armstp

    A completely BS post.

    There is only one reason why they could not get a deal done. The Republicans were unwilling to raise any significant amount of revenue. Any other excuse or reason is BS.

    • Traveler

      Hey, Toomey’s offer was breathtaking! While mostly smoke and mirrors and raising taxes most on the middle class, he at least he did try. For that I got to give him some credit for going against the Norquistians. We really do need to visit the mortgage deduction, especially for second homes.

  • Southern Populist

    The Republicans were fools to agree to a deal to raise the debt ceiling past the election.

    That said, I am very happy that the military budget is going to take a hit.

    • Bingham

      Those bloated seniors never met a piece of pork they didn’t like. We need fewer men, and better.

  • valkayec

    Given all the hyperbolic rhetoric, it might be a good thing that Congress is deadlocked. The sequestration will take effect. The bloated military budget will take a big hit which might be good to bring it back in size with the rest of our economy as well as require other governments to step forward rather than depending upon Americans to pick up the tab for their security. Hopefully, too, it will force medical providers of all sorts to become more efficient and look for ways to economize. Both industries are hugely wasteful and inefficient. Lastly, if nothing is done the Bush era tax cuts will expire. The result of these inactions will result in extraordinary decreases in the deficit.

    Are these inactions the most efficient ways to govern or to propel the nation forward? Absolutely not. The ramifications will be deadly to research and development, education, commerce, scientific achievements, and national confidence. But if you’re looking only at deficit reduction, the results will be stunning.

    • Bingham

      Meh, so everyting else will have to go on hold for 3-4 years (or more) while we get our financial affairs in order. We’re a young and resilient country, we’ll get over it.

  • nhthinker

    The Democratically-controlled Senate has not proposed a budget in nearly three years.
    This year’s President’s budget didn’t even get his own party’s votes.

    The Democrats have assured that there will be a middle class tax hike, a chorus of Europeans and Chinese that will say that the Democrats are not austere enough, and the middle American perception of soldiers without enough body armor in the lead up to an election year.

    56% of Americans think government does too much.

    The times they are a changing.

    • TerryF98

      You have been viewing too much fox “news” again. It makes you dumber apparently. If that is possible.

      • nhthinker

        Terry does ad hominem…and not much else.

        I watch 4 times more MSNBC than Fox News.
        I even hear Chris Matthew’s dissing Obama in real time on MSNBC/Alex Witt- a couple days ago…My jaw dropped on that one.

        But I’m sure Terry’s response will likely be to call me a liar.

    • Traveler

      Nothing passes without 60% anymore. Dems never acted that way previously on budget issues. POGers are completely to blame for the dysfunctional government we have now. So quit the BS talking point.

      You sometimes act sensible, but this sort of twitching kind of gives you away.

  • ottovbvs

    Springy:
    “Wealthy people are wealthy because they know how to handle money, anyone really think that raising the rate will result in more revenue???”

    Er….yes…and here’s the evidence to prove it not that actual evidence means much to Springy

    http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/22/balancing-the-budget-for-real/?ref=business

    • Sinan

      Getting rich is one thing, staying rich is actually quite easy. The key to staying rich is to not spend money, period. If you spend your money, you trade being rich for owning things or having a great time. If I gave you one billion dollars tomorrow, would you spend one billion? Doubt it.

  • jdd_stl1

    Whatever you think of David Brooks, I love this line in his recent piece:

    “Grover Norquist’s tax pledge isn’t really about public policy; it’s a chastity belt Republican politicians wear to show that they haven’t been defiled by the Washington culture. ”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/22/opinion/brooks-the-two-moons.html?hp

  • nhthinker

    The voting present President…
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-a-town-hall-meeting-economy-racine-wisconsin

    “… Whether you’re a Democrat, an independent, or a Republican, all of us should be worried about the fact that we have been running the credit card on–in the name of future generations. And somebody is going to have to pay that back. And by the way, when we borrow all that money, we have to pay interest on that–to other countries and other investors. So we’ve got to get our debt and our deficits under control.

    … So we’ve got a tough job, but I think it’s a job that we can accomplish. And that is we stimulated the economy, we got it moving again, it’s growing again; we now have to, in a gradual way, reduce spending, particularly on those big-ticket items, but do so in a way that doesn’t hurt people. And that is a challenge.

    … That’s why I set up a fiscal commission to take a look and figure out how are we going to reorder our priorities so that we’re spending the same–we’re not spending any more than we’re taking in, but we’re doing it in a way that doesn’t hurt the economy and doesn’t hurt ordinary people. And that’s going to be our project for the next couple of years. All right? But everybody is going to have to be patient because we’re not going to be able to change that overnight.”