The giveaway to this Kabuki dance is the simple notion that whatever Congress does, it can undo. If the supercommittee fails to reach agreement by the time Congress recesses for Thanksgiving, or if the Congress votes down whatever product emerges from their negotiations, the chances of Democrats allowing massive cuts in entitlements and Republicans allowing massive cuts in defense spending are as close to zero as you can get. Since there is no way to compromise on the supercommittee’s deal, it is likely that Ccongress will declare the deficit agreement dead and the business of creating more trillion dollar deficits in future years will continue apace.
But the proprieties must be observed, tradition honored, and the motions gone through. Hence, we have the unnecessary drama of the supercommittee meeting in secrecy all these weeks. No doubt they’ve created a secret handshake by this time and developed a secret decoder ring. The purpose of the secrecy is … well, it sounds cool. And it’s supposed to keep greedy lobbyists from gumming up the workings of the committee.
The Constitutional Convention met in secret but at least they were responsible adults who could be trusted to do a good job. Lord knows what these jokers have been up to for the last few weeks. What little that has leaked out has not been encouraging. Prior to this Democratic deficit reduction plan being proposed today, the position of the donks was set in stone: no cuts to Medicare. The GOP was apparently going them one better by refusing to abide tax increases while also making Pentagon spending sacrosanct.
The fact that the Democrats have proposed cuts in Medicare means that they are pretty confident the GOP will reject the deal and they think they will score huge points with the voters for appearing “reasonable.” Before you wonder how they believe such transparent tomfoolery will work, recall first, that politicians aren’t very bright, and secondly, neither are most voters. So when the deal goes south and Harry Reid, looking sad and forlorn, appears before the cameras to blame Republicans for the impasse, the voters are likely to give Democrats the benefit of the doubt. Large majorities believe the rich aren’t paying their “fair share” and breaking a deficit reduction deal because the GOP won’t raise taxes on anybody will not play well.
In the end, cutting $200 billion or so from the budget every year for 10 years is a drop in the bucket. Projected deficits that will exceed at least $9 trillion are forecast, and that’s under best case scenarios of low interest rates and low inflation. The supercommittee debacle — failing to cut less than 4% of total spending over the next 10 years — is more proof, as if any were needed, that Congress is beyond dysfunctional. It is regressing to infantile status because of its inability to meet the crisis as any grown-up would: with responsible action to save the nation from catastrophe.