Donald Lambro

The so-called "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. And, while they're at it, 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 that 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 where 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 is now 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 stop gap 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 some three trillion to our national debt.

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


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.