Another reason why failure would hurt the entire process is the alternative isn’t that calamitous. If the Super Committee is incapable of moving its plan through both houses of Congress, then the fall-back plan which triggers automatically – a modest $1.2 trillion cut – by all accounts pales in comparison. Let’s be serious, every interest group in Washington is running around both privately and publicly declaring the so-called back-stop is far better than anything the deficit panel could produce.
When lawmakers designed the sequestered amount, they didn’t envision a $1.2 trillion cut as wimpy. (That alone should tell you something about congressional intentions – they fail to grasp the sheer weight of the federal deficit and debt.) The idea behind the ‘alternative’ was to make it so unappealing that the 12 would be forced to reach tough decisions. Now, they can throw up their hands in feigned frustration and let some orphaned amount kick in with little repercussion.
A third reason is political. What message does it send to the electorate that not only could Congress not responsibly address its duties, but even a sub-group with specific tasks failed miserably? What do such actions say for future “blue ribbon commissions”? Our worst fears would be confirmed. Even when lawmakers remove the cacophony of multiple voices and agendas, and drill down to allegedly bipartisan officials with one joint goal in mind, failure seems to be the only product.
To compound matters, several Beltway publications last week ran front page headlines that read, “President Stays Away from Deficit Panel.” The stories went on to say the White House had not made a single call to Super Committee members, choosing instead to get updates from Democratic leaders. Are you kidding me? Perhaps the single-most important congressional action of 2011 and 2012 – certainly according to Wall Street – and the president is sitting on the sidelines? Who made that call? You might as well inaugurate President Romney in January if this deal implodes. I don’t see any upside for Obama if the panel fails, not to mention for his party that’s flailing in search of a sound economic agenda.
Much hangs in the balance for this Super 12. And while I sense the American people know this is serious business with serious consequences, I’m not so sure the same sense of urgency is shared by our political leaders. Markets don’t lie, and they definitely don’t wear political stripes. Rather, they simply punish or reward. This country is due some good news for a change from Wall Street. Congress and the President can help usher in that positive outcome just in time for Christmas.