Our super-pathetic debt super committee

Getty Images

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), left, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) participate in a Joint Deficit Reduction Committee hearing Oct. 26, 2011, in Washington, DC.

Article Highlights

  • Both sides of #supercommittee deadlocked on entitlements and taxes—this is, quite simply, pathetic @marcthiessen

    Tweet This

  • Refusing to substitute targeted cuts for automatic, across-the-board cuts is ridiculous @marcthiessen

    Tweet This

  • Super committee heads for failure, and this may be exactly what the Democrats want @marcthiessen

    Tweet This

For weeks, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction heard exhortations to “go big” and come up with a $4 trillion to $5 trillion debt reduction package. But committee members apparently couldn’t even agree on their mandated $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction—and it seems increasingly likely that they will now throw in the towel with no agreement at all.

This is, quite simply, pathetic.

The fact that both sides are deadlocked on entitlements and taxes is no excuse for failing to agree on any spending cuts whatsoever. If the supercommittee couldn’t find a way to “go big,” the very least it could do was “go small.” There are hundreds of billions in cuts that Democrats and Republicans could pocket without cutting entitlements or raising taxes. Failure to do so will make this one of the saddest displays of incompetence ever witnessed in Washington.

"Democrats seem intent on letting the supercommittee crash and burn rather than making a less-than-optimal emergency landing."—Marc Thiessen

On Friday, Republicans offered a “go small” plan that would reduce the deficit by $640 billion—including a pay freeze and bigger pension contributions for federal workers, cuts in farm subsidies and other spending reductions. According to one GOP aide, this is “the lowest of the low-hanging fruit, stuff that everyone agrees on.” Republicans even gave in to one of the Democrats’ long-held demands, eliminating the special tax break for corporate jets, which would raise $3 billion in new taxes over 10 years.

The Democrats rejected the GOP offer. Sen. Patty Murray, Democratic co-chairman of the supercommittee, declared “it does not meet, even close to coming to meet, the issues that we set out from the beginning: fair and balanced.” Translation: Democrats won’t sign on to any spending cuts, no matter how modest, if Republicans do not agree to massive tax increases.

This makes no sense at all. The $1.2 billion sequester, which will go into effect if the supercommittee fails, is made up entirely of spending cuts, with no tax increases. Refusing to substitute some mutually agreed upon targeted cuts for the automatic, across-the-board cuts is ridiculous.

If the $640 billion in spending cuts Republicans proposed are unacceptable to the Democrats, why don’t they cut $400 billon? Or $200 billion? Or $100 billion? Something? Anything? Democrats seem intent on letting the supercommittee crash and burn rather than making a less-than-optimal emergency landing.

If the supercommittee fails, Republicans will rightly point out that they put two serious proposals on the table only to have Democrats reject both offers without ever putting forward a unified counterproposal. They will note that, not only did Democrats reject the GOP’s “Plan B” offer last week, they also dismissed a proposal by Sen. Pat Toomey that included some $300 billion in tax increases. In making this offer, Toomey and his fellow Republicans crossed a line in the sand their party had drawn—risking a major backlash from the GOP rank-and-file and the conservative grassroots. But instead of accepting this concession in good faith and putting forward a serious counteroffer, Democrats immediately attacked it and demanded $1 trillion in tax increases—something to which they knew full well Republicans could never agree.

The result of this obstinacy is now clear: The supercommittee appears to be headed toward failure. And this may be precisely what the Democrats want. With President Obama’s approval ratings in the tank, and their party poised to lose control of the Senate in 2012, Democrats know their only hope to stave off electoral disaster is to run a negative campaign that paints Republicans as intransigent extremists. They may have concluded that a bipartisan agreement on debt reduction—especially one in which the GOP agreed to hundreds of billions in tax increases—would undermine that narrative.

The problem is if the supercommittee fails to reach agreement on any spending cuts, the Democrats will not be able to blame Republican intransigence. It is the Democrats who have rejected every offer and every compromise Republicans put forward. If Democrats take time to reflect on this, perhaps they’ll discover at the last minute the virtue of “going small”—especially when the alternative may be “going home” courtesy of the voters next November.

Marc A. Thiessen is a visiting fellow at AEI

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Marc A.
Thiessen
  • A member of the White House senior staff under President George W. Bush, Marc A. Thiessen served as chief speechwriter to the president and to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Prior to joining the Bush administration, Thiessen spent more than six years as spokesman and senior policy adviser to Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C.). He is a weekly columnist for the Washington Post, and his articles can be found in many major publications. His book on the Central Intelligence Agency's interrogation program, Courting Disaster (Regnery Press, 2010), is a New York Times bestseller. At AEI, Thiessen writes about U.S. foreign and defense policy issues for The American and the Enterprise Blog. He appears every Sunday on Fox News Channel's "Fox and Friends" and makes frequent appearances on other TV and talk radio programs.


    Follow Marc Thiessen on Twitter.

  • Phone: 202-862-7173
    Email: marc.thiessen@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Justin Lang
    Phone: (202) 862-5948
    Email: Justin.Lang@aei.org

What's new on AEI

image The Census Bureau and Obamacare: Dumb decision? Yes. Conspiracy? No.
image A 'three-state solution' for Middle East peace
image Give the CBO long-range tools
image The coming collapse of India's communists
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 14
    MON
  • 15
    TUE
  • 16
    WED
  • 17
    THU
  • 18
    FRI
Wednesday, April 16, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Calling treason by its name: A conversation with Liam Fox

Join us at AEI as the Right Honorable Liam Fox sits down with Marc Thiessen to discuss and debate whether America’s intelligence agencies have infringed on the personal privacy of US citizens.

Thursday, April 17, 2014 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
The curmudgeon's guide to getting ahead

How can young people succeed in workplaces dominated by curmudgeons who are judging their every move? At this AEI book event, bestselling author and social scientist Charles Murray will offer indispensable advice for navigating the workplace, getting ahead, and living a fulfilling life.

Event Registration is Closed
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.