There you have it, everyone: the so-called “Super Committee” has officially failed to come to an agreement.
Formed as the result of the utterly insane standoff over the debt ceiling this summer, the Super Committee was a bipartisan group of senators and representatives tasked with making major cuts to budget deficits. If they had come to a consensus, the Super Committee could have pushed their proposal through Congress without the usual procedural hurdles. Each new proposal floated by the committee members seemed to shift more and more in the direction of cuts to vital programs like Medicare and Social Security. In the end, the committee’s six Republicans wouldn’t take even these cuts: they wanted not only the demolition of the safety net, but a guarantee that those cuts wouldn’t be balanced out by net new tax revenue on wealthier Americans. (Although Super Committee Republican Pat Toomey, a new senator from Pennsylvania, was happy to propose a plan that would raise taxes on the middle class.)
In a new CNN poll today, 67% say higher revenues from wealthier Americans need to be part of deficit reduction, while 57% say that major cuts in Social Security and Medicare benefits shouldn’t. The Beltway consensus position is exactly the opposite. Politicians like Toomey are expressing a fringe position—they’re wildly out of touch with the mainstream. A Super Committee-imposed deal that would cut Medicare and Social Security while leaving the tax burden of the rich untouched would fly in the face of public opinion.
But the really egregious thing is the time and energy wasted on the Super Committee fight while an actual, right-here, affects-real-people economic crisis is still underway. Joblessness is still stubbornly high, state budget austerity is cutting away real jobs and real public services people depend on, and unemployment benefits are set to expire at the end of the year. It’s completely embarrassing that Congress, thanks in part to the callous obstruction of Senate Republicans, is completely unable to get serious about putting people back to work.
Derek Thompson, writing at the Atlantic, says “we’ve missed an opportunity to expand and extend stimulus measures like the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits…the failure you should care about the most is the failure that we’ll feel first. And that’s the failure to address the growth crisis.”
As Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley (a Working America member!) notes, we need broad economic growth first and foremost: “Every proposal for reducing the deficit should be put to the test of whether it creates or destroys jobs.”
So now that we’ve all woken up from the Super Committee dream, how about some attention to the economic issues people actually care about?