The Super Noncommittal Super Committee

Yesterday began the 10-day countdown to the Congressional Super Committee’s November 23rddeadline. As the frantic weekday news cycle comes into swing after the staid political rituals of the Sunday morning talk shows, timely, effective solutions look less and less likely.

For those of you not enthralled with Congressional Committee politics (what’s wrong with you?), the Super Committee has become the colloquial name for the body of six Representatives and six Senators augustly dubbed the “United States Congress Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.” A creature of the Budget Control Act of 2011, the Super Committee has until November 23rd to produce proposed legislation with the purpose of cutting a recommended $1.5 trillion from future federal deficits. This legislation will be subjected to a simple “up or down” vote, in which Congressmen can only vote yes or no without filibustering or earmarks – the legislation lives or dies in the form that it reaches the floor.


Many had high hopes for the Super Committee, and now its looks like most of them will be disappointed. In a political climate where everything that isn’t business as usual is labeled as a bold solution, the idea of high-ranking congressional leaders from both parties coming together and duking it out behind closed doors nicely contrasted with the enduring political stalemate. Sadly, this never happened. Democrats clung to their refusal to cut or reform entitlements, and Republicans are holding the line on tax increases. It now seems as if the Super Committee may produce a simple list of suggested revenue increases that will then be parceled out to the standard Congressional Committee system, almost inevitably dying in the process.

Thankfully, in a rare moment of clarity, Washington acknowledged its own tendency to pass the buck and included a budget trigger, automatically implementing $1.2 trillion of cuts to entitlement and defense spending should the Super Committee fail. Though large, these cuts are inherently superficial and do nothing to address the long-term structural imbalances in US entitlement, tax, and spending policy. Year after year our debt compounds while the cost of government-provided medical care skyrockets and a broken tax system discourages growth while encouraging evasion. Eventually the US will be forced to make a major fiscal adjustment. Whether we do it on our terms or our creditors’ terms is completely up to us.

Benjamin E. Chuchla