It’s official. The supercommittee has failed.
It wasn’t a bad idea really. The amount that the supercommittee was tasked with cutting — $1.2 trillion — was chosen quite specifically. It’s small enough to be doable. But big enough that you can’t do it with one policy. You can’t get $1.2 trillion just by raising taxes on the rich. You can’t get $1.2 trillion without hitting entitlements. You can’t get $1.2 trillion from cutting “waste”. Only a combined policy would match that number.
Granted, the amount was tiny in comparison to our massive budget. As Nick Gillespie pointed out, the amount of money involved was like arguing about floor mats in a $20,000 car. But any deal would have been a microcosm of the larger grand bargain needed to fix our budget.
Unfortunately, our political leadership were unable to complete even this simple and tiny task. Republicans didn’t want to raise taxes even a little and are, even now, trying to eviscerate the extremely modest cuts in defense spending. Democrats didn’t want to touch entitlements, even a little. And the idea of compromise is so alien to them that mixing policies was a non-starter, despite a tax-and-cut compromise polling in the 70’s among the public. Bainbridge:
The Republican idea that we can solve the debt problem without raising additional revenue is just absurd. We’ll never be able to cut federal spending down to the 14% of GDP that currently comes in as federal revenue. But the Democrat idea that we can just keep doling out entitlement programs like candy is even more flawed. We’ve got to get the size of government back down to around 20% of GDP and entitlement cuts have to be a big part of doing so. After all, Willie Sutton robbed banks because that’s where the money is. Well, entitlement programs and defense are where the federal government has its money, so that’s where you’ve got to look for cuts.
Ideally, all Americans would have skin in the game. Everybody ought to pay higher taxes and everybody ought to take a cut in benefits. We can sort out how progressive those changes ought to be, but everybody needs to have a stake in the success or failure of the American enterprise.
But don’t expect DC to get us there.
There are a few people crowing about this, but I can’t fathom why. All this does is kick the can down the road … again. Any serious deficit plan is going to have to be a compromise. Neither party has either the will or the power to get 100% of what they want while giving the other side 0%. We got into this with a combination of low revenues and high spending. And you can’t get out of it without addressing both. Nobody “won” by holding out. All the did was make the inevitable even more painful.
Update: Just to give you the numbers. The SC was tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in cuts … out of $44 trillion in planned spending.