Perhaps the Supercommittee’s failure accomplished only a deepening of the partisan rancor in Congress, and an elevated disdain in which Congress is held by voters. Some Representatives and Senators, on both sides of the aisle, were moved to find opportunities to let the public know their level of frustration and anger. Polls of voters overwhelmingly reinforced the truism that Congress as it is constituted today is utterly dysfunctional and an embarrassment to America. And yet, in the quieter moments, some in congress and out are suggesting, “It ain’t all bad.” Epic congressional failures have, in fact, led to epic successes in future sessions. Is this one of those fortunate fails?
Some members of Congress obviously believe the Supercommittee’s failure is nothing more than failure. Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, in an act of public frustration worthy of Clare Boothe Luce, an earlier New England Dame of Congress, issued a statement calling the Supercommittee “a monumental waste of time and opportunity” that “represents yet another regrettable milestone in Congress’s steady march toward abject ineffectiveness.”
Sadly, failure, although described at the Supercommittee’s inception by Congressional leaders as “not an option,” as if its meetings were a football game, was pretty much guaranteed from the beginning… and Americans knew it. In early polls, they told the world that the American voter believed that, while the Supercommittee’s failure might be, “…not an option,” it looked very much like inevitability. So it was, given the ideologues appointed by the leaders of each party. The Democratic and Republican leaders delivered a 50-50 split of six, “No taxes ever!” Republicans and six, “No ‘balance’ (taxes on the wealthy), no deal!” Democrats. That’s where they started and that’s where they ended.
Still, some claim to hear the faintest flutter of a heartbeat… a heartbeat born of fear. So far as the Republicans are concerned, two very bad things happen January 1, 2013. First, the Supercommittee triggers kick in, and the US military (including manufacturers and contractors) takes a very big hit of at least half of $1.2 trillion. The President has already promised a veto of any attempt to evade (thus making pointless) the initially agreed-upon triggers. Second, the tax “increase” against which the Republicans have been so strenuously defending the wealthy kick in… for almost all taxpayers. Although it is simply the return to the original status the law creating the Bush tax cuts envisioned, it will offer a $3.8 trillion dollar increase in tax revenue over the ten years for which the Supercommittee was allegedly planning. The Supercommittee’s failure, if all else is left alone, will provide between $6 trillion and $8 trillion in savings over that ten-year period, once averted interest is included.
Democrats still want to see all but the top bracket cuts made permanent, but the last Republican offer to the committee was a reduction in those cuts and an increase in all others. There may be room for compromise there, but it looks less than promising.