Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction as Political Theatre

For more than a year now Democrats and Republicans in Congress have failed to pass a federal budget. Just last week yet another patch-work Continuing Resolution was passed rather quietly to fund the federal government through mid-December.

The so called “super committee,” officially known as the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, was created during the last act of political theatre to come from DC: the debt ceiling debate that raged this past August. A select committee mechanism suggestion then was to absolve our elected officials from making politically difficult choices on spending and taxes in the face of yearly deficits of $1.4 trillion, and a national debt that was then (3 months ago, $14.3 trillion).

(By the way, take note, the debt ceiling increase from August has already been reached. Our national debt is now over $15 trillion.)

As most of us know by now, we have a deficit and debt problem in Washington, DC. The agreement that came from the August debate to raise the debt ceiling included $900 billion in spending cuts over 10 years, and the promise to cut another $1.2 trillion over ten years either with the guidance of the Joint Select Committee, or by way of automatic triggers. As we are discovering today with the dead line for the Select Committee upon us (officially Wednesday 11/23 at midnight), none of the August agreement is binding: not the recommendations of the committee, not the automatic triggers.

In the end, the political theatre we have been witnessing – to include actors from the new Tea Party candidates who were elected to Congress in November 2010 to reduce government spending – even if executed as planned would have made little progress on the fiscal challenge we face. All of the plans being discussed, even the “big deal for $4 trillion in cuts,” are all over a ten year period, and are simply not enough. The cuts being talked about now only reduce the annual deficit from the $1.4 trillion a year now, down to $600 billion a year in 2023. You see, annual deficits don’’t go away. We won’’t reduce our debt until annual expenditures are less than annual tax receipts. Our national debt will continue to worsen as long as Congress continues to spend more than their tax receipts.

Let us not kid ourselves, the decisions needed to be made regarding our annual deficits are hard ones. Americans dependent on government spending will be hurt by reductions in spending and the move towards a balanced budget. There is now way getting around it. We cannot grow our way out of this problem. The choices must be made now voluntarily before it will be too late and the decisions will be made by force. It is apparent still that we do not yet have the right people representing us in DC. We thought we elected the right people to help in 2010, we were wrong. Go to fec.gov and look at the fundraising reports and you’’ll see why we were wrong.

The members of the Joint Select Committee themselves have been part of the problem in DC, why should we have thought they could fix the problem they created and enable. On the Republican side, the average number of years in office is 15 years, with Senator Jon Kyl (AZ) and Rep Fred Upton (MI) leading the way with 23 and 24 years in office respectively. On the Democrat side, the average number of years in office is 22 years, with Senators Max Baucus (MT) and John Kerry (MA) leading the way with 36 and 27 years in office respectively.

The ballot box solution is available to us again come November 2012, get serious about it. We need net cuts in yearly federal government spending of more than $700 billion for the next few years to be considered on a serious path towards debt reduction. Increasing tax receipts cannot be excluded.

Frank Roche

      
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