For the Super-Committee, Failure is Success

November 23, 2011

The Super-Committee didn’t fail. The failure was the creation of the Super-Committee itself. It was created as a result of the false, politically manufactured debt ceiling crisis last August. By not reaching an agreement, the Super-Committee produced the best outcome of any of the options that were on the table in this terribly misguided process.

Despite not reaching agreement on a deal or grand bargain to reduce the deficit in the Super-Committee, $1.2 trillion will still be cut from the federal budget. Those cuts will be distributed equally between the military and federal programs other than Social Security and health benefits for the poor and elderly. Slashing government programs is exactly the wrong priority with the economy as weak as it is now. However, the Super-Committee did succeed in appropriately focusing much of the cuts on the bloated military budget, protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and blocking Republican attempts to hand out even more new tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires.

The automatic cuts mandated by the August debt ceiling fiasco will be devastating to non-defense discretionary programs – a category that makes up only about 15% of the budget and includes education funding, unemployment insurance, veterans benefits, and virtually all federal spending other than the military budget, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and interest payments. But literally every other proposal in the Super-Committee was worse.

Rather than focusing on the long-term deficit, congress should have tasked the Super-Committee with addressing the actual immediate problems raging in our economy, including disastrous unemployment and the lack of jobs, the ongoing mortgage crisis, and runaway economic inequality.

Jobs are the best way to rebuild the economy and to lower the deficit. When people get back to work, they’ll start buying goods and services and paying taxes. And with taxes on the rich at historically low levels, any good budget or deficit proposal should start with ending tax breaks that benefit the wealthiest few. Poll after poll shows that these are the priorities of a huge majority of the American public.

Instead, the Super-Committee was headed toward a very bad deal. Democrats on the Super-Committee blocked Republican members’ demands for even bigger tax cuts for the rich coupled with deep cuts to social insurance programs.  If those proposals had passed, the result would have been higher unemployment, serious harm to everyday Americans -- and worsening deficits.

It isn’t a failure that the Super-Committee didn’t accept the train wreck of bad policy and misguided priorities that Republicans proposed. In today’s Tea Party fueled political environment, it’s something to be thankful for.

Update:

Read UFE and Responsible Wealth's full letter to the Super-Committee here (PDF).

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