Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What’s Next, Super Committee?

So now the super committee has not resolved the latest conundrum of government. How can a divided Congress learn to work together? So, what's next?

Smoke screens are rising from Capitol Hill, but it appears from here that the committee was joined by some with intent to make it fail.

Now, although all of the inside details have yet to emerge, each side apparently went into the meetings with certain goals and definite ideas of an endpoint. It appears that these thoughts never did converge. Some Republicans are starting to blame President Obama for not getting involved in the process, but it appears he was wise to keep his distance, especially after the debacle that came after negotiating with Speaker Boehner last summer. The public, in a recent Gallup Poll blamed both sides, and indicated that they should have compromised more. Will this turn the elections next year into a mood of "throw them all out" equally condemning both parties, or will the Democrats win the very public spin game? Was this standoff the only way highly partisan members could have concluded this process? Shouldn't they have tried harder for the sake of the American people?

The committee hearings heard from members of the Simpson Bowles commission and other interest groups featuring multiple viewpoints on what they should do to provide a fix for the economy. Neither the military speakers nor the earnest social interest advocates felt that not succeeding was a possibility. However the larger goal of finding the greater good for the majority of Americans eluded the "super committee". It appears that the idea of "failure is not an option" was not endorsed by the recalcitrant Republicans who appeared to be working only for the top 1%, whom they seem to think form their only constituency. Mumblings about not taxing the "job creators" again filled the air waves. Somehow the speakers could not address why these job creators have not done so, for the ten years the Bush tax cuts have been in place. Somehow they could not address the reality that the middle class in this country is losing ground. The voices of the Occupy Wall Streeters have not been heard enough in the halls of Congress, it seems. Even though a group of Representatives signed a collective letter urging cooperation, it did not change the atmosphere.

The Republicans were insisting on no new taxes. The Democrats wanted some safety net protections for entitlements and workers benefits. Senator Toomey (R-PA) supposedly offered a tax concession but insisted on not only preserving the Bush tax cuts but also reducing the rate levels. Democrats had agreed to concessions for both Medicaid and Medicare, but insisted on new streams of revenue. And, in the end the two sides were talking only to staff, not each other. Doyle McManus, writing in the Los Angeles Times, indicated that since there was no drop dead -- fall off the cliff -- kind of showdown regarding the sequester, then the committee really was not operating with a sense of urgency. To me it seems to be a shame that Congress can only function if facing a doomsday scenario. It is almost as if every issue comes up against a sports metaphor -- you know the scenarios: "bottom of the 9th, bases loaded, two outs, go ahead run at the plate" ... while we hold our collective breath to see if the batter hits one out of the park or strikes out. Every issue cannot and should not be the last game of the last inning in the World Series. Some games and most laws are much more pedestrian, but in this polarized quite partisan Congressional world, the reality of the mundane has not yet penetrated the collective consciousness.

There were many meetings, some hearings, and a sense of some kind of diligent fact gathering in many of the initial press releases from this disparate but partisan group of legislators. But, after the few tentative tendrils of new ideas crept out from relatively reticent members, hardened lobbyists moved in to try to make certain no movement was made on anything of importance. Much was made of the lack of leaks, but it is hard to leak when little change is happening behind those storied closed doors. Congressman Chris Van Hollen, (D-MD), Ranking member on the House Budget committee wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post about the lack of give-and-take in the discussions. His remarks were of course countered by all six of the Republican members, who had few constructive ideas to offer and in an article signed off by all of their members, repeated the fallacy that their offer to "reduce taxes" was a real improvement. No where did they provide the real revenues that the President and most Democrats had insisted upon. Neither side could agree to continue the payroll tax roll backs that were enacted at the lame duck session last year. (Was it only a year ago? Am I the only person who feels that this last tumultuous Congressional year has felt more like a decade moving slowly by?) The joint press release was terse and lacked process illumination, but what else could we expect?

What do you think should have been accomplished by the Super Committee? What compromises should have been made?

1 comment:

  1. I had no expectation of accomplishment of anything; I thought it was a sham, and unconstitutional, and yet another delaying tactic to make it look like President Obama cannot get anything done and should not be re-elected. Apparently the days of "leaders" in Congress, and "compromise", are over. Give the current crop of Republicans an inch, and they move the goal line another mile. They are an embarrassment to anyone except racists. The Democrats are a bunch of wussies--my favorite Get Fuzzy comic strip has Bucky Cat explaining that the reason Republicans are opposed to stem cell research is that Democrats might get Petri dishes and grow spines. But now, cuts to the War Department can happen, which wouldn't if the SC had accomplished, well, anything.

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