- The Washington Times - Monday, November 21, 2011


The supercommittee failed Monday to agree on $1.2 trillion in deficit-reduction measures. This happens to be the best outcome given Democratic intransigence on spending. Republicans refused to strike a sham deal that would have given political cover to an unpopular Congress without addressing entitlements, which are the central cause of the debt crisis.

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction was created to find offsets for the next scheduled $1.2 trillion hike in the debt ceiling. Republicans wanted to take advantage of the closed-door setting to tackle entitlement programs with both sides sharing the blame. It didn’t work.

“Even the president will admit that the great drivers of our debt are Medicare, Medicaid and health care. Nothing else comes close,” committee co-chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Texas Republican, told Fox News on Sunday. “But unfortunately what we haven’t seen in these talks from the other side is any Democrat willing to put a proposal on the table that actually solves the problem.”

Minutes later on the show, Democratic committee member Rep. Xavier Becerra of California confirmed the political motive, saying, “Why do you want to balance the budget on the backs of seniors - by telling them they won’t get to receive their Medicare, that they’ve been paying for all of these years, until two years later than they expected?” No proposal yet would change the eligibility age of benefits for anyone over 55 years old. This invention is meant to scare seniors for political advantage.

Democrats were only interested in tax hikes, not reducing Washington’s out-of-control spending habit. Committee Republicans were even willing to compromise and accept some tax hikes - in the form of fewer deductions - in return for the questionable promise of lower rates overall. Even this wasn’t enough to get Democrats to talk spending cuts; they never put a single entitlement reform proposal on the table.

Until now, Republican House leaders substituted spin for spending cuts. At the beginning of the year, they claimed to fulfill their “Pledge to America” by cutting $100 billion in a continuing resolution. By April, House Speaker John A. Boehner struck a deal with the president to avert shutting down the government and ostensibly cut $38.5 billion. However, the 2011 fiscal year ended with spending up by $145 billion.

By summer, Republicans refused to give Mr. Obama a higher debt ceiling without paying for it. After coming down to the wire of defaulting, Republicans folded, approving trillions in borrowing without any corresponding cuts. The disastrous bargain led to the humiliating U.S. credit-rating downgrade.

Republicans may finally have learned their lesson. It’s a positive sign this time that Republicans aren’t trying to claim a false victory with another fraudulent deal. Democrats aren’t interested in reform and will let Medicare go bankrupt if it means they can cling to power in the Senate and White House a little bit longer.

The supercommitee’s end without any real spending cuts is a loss for the country, but that’s better than cooking up business-as-usual and pretending it is anything else but a turkey.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

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