Congressional Debt Super Committee Failure & the Political Climate in Washington
Granted that at its inception, members foolishly vowed never to fail, it would be unpardonably naïve of anyone to feign surprise at news of the woeful failure of the so-called Congressional Super Committee to broker a bi-partisan deal guaranteeing $1.2 trillion in deficit savings.
It is far more tenable to posit that this outcome was unavoidably emblematic of a larger problem with the American body politic that if not quickly rectified could force our democracy into a paralytic stupor---a reality that we certainly can ill-afford at a time of such heightened economic anxiety and insecurity.
To the degree that one can hardly get both sides to agree on anything nowadays, some might say, and rightfully so perhaps, that we are already there!
Gone are the days when there was a shared understanding that a difference of ideology was not an acceptable excuse for shirking dialogue, compromise and action in furtherance of the business of the state.
Republicans and Democrats have always differed on expressed philosophies or beliefs around governance. But following the extreme polarization that took hold since the meteoric ascendance of Tea Party politics within the Republican Party, a new cadre of lawmakers with an unbending ideological agenda arrived in Washington.
So, what we have currently is a situation where commitment to dogma or ideological purity has effectively supplanted the interest of good old-fashioned deliberative, cooperative government. The political environment has become so rancorous, zero sum or winner-takes-all that each side is metaphorically preoccupied with the next move(s) to score a win in a chess game that the entire purpose of the game becomes obfuscated or utterly lost in all of the mindless chatter.
It is bothersome to see elected officials tasked with manning our ship of state degenerate into behavior patterns typical of kindergartners. Little wonder, therefore, that the approval rating of Congress is at reprehensible, historic lows: 9 percent!
The Super Committee was drawn from a Congress that, if anything, has proven to not only be dysfunctional but tone-deaf. It had to fail because it had no special antidote or inoculation against Washington’s gridlock syndrome.
It simply wasn’t plausible to expect otherwise; the committee could not accomplish in a few weeks what Congress itself could not in many months---even with the threat of the automatic cuts trigger dangling menacingly over committee members' heads!
The facts about the country’s state of economic health are well known; consequently, they need no special introduction or re-litigation:
· We are still deep in the throes of the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression
· Nearly 10% of the population is out of work
· The nation’s expenditures have uninterruptedly outpaced revenues practically every single year since the Clinton Administration
· Our national debt is almost $15 trillion
· Military expenditures cannot be sustained at current levels
· Solvency of popular entitlement programs (Medicare, Social Security, etc.) into the future can no longer be guaranteed without necessary structural changes
· The tax code is in need of an overhaul to address temporary cuts and existing loopholes
Practically every economist, budget analyst or think-tank agree that the situation demands that the political elite agree on a strategic set of choices around taxes and spending that some within their respective support bases may find objectionable.
Democrats generally favor tax increases or revenue generation; Republicans prefer spending cuts or the shrinking of government. But in reality, neither one can exclusively or singularly plug the hole.
The interesting thing is that the American people seem to understand and even accept the inevitability of these choices better than their elected officials in Washington. Poll after poll show that while nearly 60% embrace "major cuts" to spending programs, 90% oppose higher taxes on the middle class and another 67% favor tax hikes on the super rich and corporations.
This is fundamentally a failure of leadership on both sides of the aisle. We have a set of leaders in Congress today who are perturbingly too short-sighted, immature and frankly uncaring to shoulder the onerous responsibility of running the affairs of this country.
Congress should snap out of its beguiling trance and step up to its constitutional duties. Enough is simply enough!