Supercommittee doing what it was designed to do: fail

by Roxeanne De Luca | November 21st, 2011

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Supercommittee doing what it was designed to do: fail

The Super­com­mit­tee has dead­locked and will not be able to release a bud­get with the required $1.2 tril­lion in cuts that would avoid seques­tra­tion. (Full dis­clo­sure: two weeks ago I heard, through unnamed sources on Capi­tol Hill, that seques­tra­tion is unavoid­able, so my cyn­i­cism is not entirely unfounded, although it will have to go with­out attribution.)

The Super­com­mit­tee was never designed to suc­ceed: it was designed as a win-​win for Obama. Either the Repub­li­cans stonewall on the Democrat’s tax hikes and future cuts to Medicare and Med­ic­aid that would be imple­mented by some­one who is not Obama, or the Com­mit­tee would dead­lock — and Repub­li­cans would be the do-​nothing party. We would either infu­ri­ate our own base and let the Democ­rats paint us as Democrats-​lite, or we would be smeared for not compromising.

Michael Gra­ham quotes from Rea­son about the sham of the Super­com­mit­tee: as the 10-​year cuts are lower than the annual deficit, the Com­mit­tee could never really “suc­ceed” in bring­ing fed­eral spend­ing in line with fed­eral income, no more than a bas­ket­ball team that is down by 30 could suc­ceed in win­ning the game by exe­cut­ing exactly one play designed to give them exactly one lay-​up.

The Cato Insti­tute explains that the pur­pose of the Super­com­mit­tee was all about increas­ing spend­ing, not decreas­ing the deficit:

Repub­li­cans are con­sid­er­ing a sur­ren­der on taxes because they are afraid that a dead­lock will lead to a sequester, which would mean auto­matic bud­get sav­ings. And the sequester, accord­ing to these politi­cians, would “cut” the bud­get too severely.

But as the chart illus­trates, that is utter nonsense.

There are only bud­get cuts if you use dis­hon­est Wash­ing­ton bud­get math, which mag­i­cally turns spend­ing increases into spend­ing cuts sim­ply because the bur­den of gov­ern­ment isn’t expand­ing even faster.

If we use hon­est math, we can see what this debate is really about. Should we raise taxes so that gov­ern­ment spend­ing can grow by more than $2 tril­lion over the next 10 years?

Or should we have a sequester so that the bur­den of fed­eral spend­ing climbs by “only” $2 trillion?

Any­one who thinks that the Super­com­mitt­tee is about any­thing besides assign­ing blame is men­tal. This was all about either get­ting the Obama agenda through and blam­ing Repub­li­cans for it (because the vot­ers do not want more taxes, more spend­ing, more gov­ern­ment, and less restraint), or blam­ing Repub­li­cans for not “reduc­ing the deficit.” The Repub­li­cans chose the lesser of two evils: refus­ing to “com­pro­mise” by, in the words of Mark Steyn, agree­ing to head towards a cliff at 30 mph instead of 60 mph.

The Supercommittee has deadlocked and will not be able to release a budget with the required $1.2 trillion in cuts that would avoid sequestration.  (Full disclosure: two weeks ago I heard, through unnamed sources on Capitol Hill, that sequestration is unavoidable, so my cynicism is not entirely unfounded, although it will have to go without attribution.)

The Supercommittee was never designed to succeed: it was designed as a win-win for Obama.  Either the Republicans stonewall on the Democrat’s tax hikes and future cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that would be implemented by someone who is not Obama, or the Committee would deadlock – and Republicans would be the do-nothing party.  We would either infuriate our own base and let the Democrats paint us as Democrats-lite, or we would be smeared for not compromising.

Michael Graham quotes from Reason about the sham of the Supercommittee: as the 10-year cuts are lower than the annual deficit, the Committee could never really “succeed” in bringing federal spending in line with federal income, no more than a basketball team that is down by 30 could succeed in winning the game by executing exactly one play designed to give them exactly one lay-up.

The Cato Institute explains that the purpose of the Supercommittee was all about increasing spending, not decreasing the deficit:

Republicans are considering a surrender on taxes because they are afraid that a deadlock will lead to a sequester, which would mean automatic budget savings. And the sequester, according to these politicians, would “cut” the budget too severely.

But as the chart illustrates, that is utter nonsense.

There are only budget cuts if you use dishonest Washington budget math, which magically turns spending increases into spending cuts simply because the burden of government isn’t expanding even faster.

If we use honest math, we can see what this debate is really about. Should we raise taxes so that government spending can grow by more than $2 trillion over the next 10 years?

Or should we have a sequester so that the burden of federal spending climbs by “only” $2 trillion?

Anyone who thinks that the Supercommitttee is about anything besides assigning blame is mental.  This was all about either getting the Obama agenda through and blaming Republicans for it (because the voters do not want more taxes, more spending, more government, and less restraint), or blaming Republicans for not “reducing the deficit.”  The Republicans chose the lesser of two evils: refusing to “compromise” by, in the words of Mark Steyn, agreeing to head towards a cliff at 30 mph instead of 60 mph.

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