- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 22, 2011


The supercommittee was doomed from the start, a victim of pie-in-the-sky thinking that a small, secretive legislative cabal could fix the debt crisis.

The idea that six Republicans and six Democrats in the midst of a highly charged election cycle could produce a budget-cutting plan within a few months was preposterous at best.

The supercommittee’s mission impossible was to find between $1.2 trillion and $1.5 trillion in budget savings in discretionary spending and entitlement reforms. While they were at it, committee members needed to come up with a package of tax reforms that would dramatically raise revenues to help pay the bills.

Any one of these assignments would take nearly a year for the appropriate committees of Congress to tackle and maybe longer than that, allowing for political posturing and stalemates. President Reagan’s herculean 1986 tax reforms, which broadened the tax base and lowered the tax rates, took nearly two years to design, negotiate and win bipartisan support.

Each of these missions could have been turned over to special legislative task forces in each house of Congress or the appropriate standing committees that have handled similar spending and revenue issues in the past. But all of them at once by a single joint committee? It was not going to happen, and, of course, it didn’t.

The supercommittee came about in the battle over the debt-limit extension when neither side could agree on major spending and entitlement cuts, or how to bridge the wide ideological gulf on tax issues and revenues.

So Congress kicked the can over to a blue-ribbon panel in Congress, which is where all the obstacles arose in the first place.

We are in a politically volatile, deeply divisive period in our nation’s history, when our legislature can rarely agree on anything, most notably how or even whether to reduce spending. Passing a fixed annual budget that finances and guides our national government has become the rare exception instead of the rule.

For some time now, we’ve been lurching year to year, month to month on short-term continuing resolutions and temporary stopgap funding measures that have put the government’s annual spending practices on automatic pilot.

When the Democrats held huge majorities in the House and Senate before the Republican landslide in the 2010 midterm elections, they couldn’t produce a budget and didn’t want to. They were up to their eyeballs in spending, all of it on a charge card that added about $3 trillion to our national debt.

As a result, we, like Europe, have gotten ourselves into a huge, debt-ridden fiscal mess.

This is no way to run a nearly $4-trillion-a-year federal government. We need sharp, yearly budget cuts, program eliminations and hard spending caps. We don’t have to do it all at once, but we must be determined to cut the deficits down to zero.

In all of the arguing about spending and taxes over the past several months, the one word that was missing from the fiscal debate was “growth.”

No fiscal policy is more necessary or more powerful in the struggle to place the government on a path to financial solvency than boosting economic growth and job creation.

Right now, the Obama economy is limping along at a 1 percent to 2 percent growth rate, with unemployment at 9 percent and underemployment around 16 percent.

The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that national unemployment is at 9 percent in nearly half the states. It’s in the double digits in nearly a dozen states.

Feeble growth rates and millions of Americans without jobs or a living income mean sharply lower tax revenues, climbing deficits and higher debt. Growth rates of between 4 percent and 5 percent, the kind we had immediately following the 1981-82 recession, and unemployment in the 6 percent range would dramatically boost tax revenues and slash our deficit.

In other words, we need both to cut spending and to increase economic growth through tax incentives for new venture-capital investment and business expansion.

If you’re still waiting for President Obama to do something about all this, don’t hold your breath.

His $1 trillion public-works-spending stimulus program turned out to be an incompetent and costly failure. His latest jobs plan, at nearly half the cost, already has been turned down in Congress.

Mr. Obama says his plan “would create nearly 2 million jobs.” But the FactCheck Wire reports that “the median estimate in a survey of 34 economists showed that only 288,000 jobs could be saved or created over two years under the president’s plan.”

Meantime, while the supercommittee was struggling to hatch a deal last week, the president was off on a lengthy Asian trip of no serious consequence, sending Marines to Australia and taking potshots at the Republicans.

Indeed, throughout the legislative panel’s deliberations over the past few months, he has been running around the country attacking Republicans for blocking his plans to raise taxes on corporations, the wealthy, small businesses and investors.

Former President Bill Clinton, among other Democrats, thinks this is the worst possible time to be raising taxes on anyone. “Should you raise taxes on anybody right today - rich or poor or middle class? No, because there’s no growth in the economy,” Mr. Clinton said last month in an appearance on the “Late Show With David Letterman.”

Democrats on the supercommittee would have slapped the economy with higher taxes if Republicans, like Bill Clinton, had not said “No.”

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.



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