Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Debt Committee

Over the next three months, a committee if twelve people are supposed to come up with a budget package that reduces the anticipated deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years - otherwise $1.2 trillion in cuts will automatically go into effect.

A mature, responsible, adult member of such a committee will walk in the door thinking that the government needs to demonstrate its seriousness about getting its finances in order. It can do so by exceeding the requirements of its charter - by reducing deficits perhaps by $3 trillion, for example.

He would also walk in with the attitude that what the country needs is an agreement that doesn't just have the endorsement of the majority of the committee members. It has to be an American solution. It really should have unanimous aporoval.

When the Founding Fathers met in Philidelphia in 1776, one of the first decisions they made was that this declaration of independence they were to consider would have to have unanimous approval (among the states). This required those founding fathers to work hard on getting everybody - or at least every state - on board (or, at least, not in opposition) to the declaration. It forced people to actually talk to and negotiate with parties with which they would have otherwise walked away from. And there would have been no United States.

Responsible members of this committee would seek to produce a unanimous agreement that reduces the deficit by twice that which is expected. Then they would prove that they actually do have the maturity and responsibility that is required to govern.

They would have the attitude that nothing is off limits - that proposals are to be evaluated on their merits rather than blind application of irreconcilable ideologies. They will demonstrate some measure if respect for ideas they do not share by approving a final project that reflects those differing opinions.

They would not only tolerate such an outcome, they would require it, because anything less could never be understood to be the project of mature adults reaching a mutual compromise.

I would suggest that the committee start with a little of everything, simply to demonstrate that nothing is off the table. Nothing is going to be ruled out by fiat.

Something will be cut from defense. Do not even try to tell me that not a single dollar of the defense budget can be removed without damaging national security. In fact, I will guarantee you that dollars are being spent on defense that actually reduce our national security - some project that is doing harm or a system that is more dangerous to those who use than to any potential enemy. So, let's start by identifying one such project that can be cut.

Some revenue loophole can be closed. Find one. The negotiator who says that there us not one absurd loophole that can be eliminated - that a taxpayer gets only by performing some activity that we have practically no good reason to encourage and many good reasons to discourage - should be tossed out as incompetent. Maybe this us a good time to get rid of the tobacco subsidy.

Social Security and Medicare can be adjusted. Here again, I am almost certain that there is something in each if these programs that costs money that is doing more harm than good. Find it. Kill it. And, thus, put the lie to the claim that these programs cannot be touched.

Then, with all options on the table, get to work.

Another thing that no mature, adult, responsible negotiator would consider doing is braging that he "won" the negotiations by forcing more concessions on the enemy than he made himself. This attitude poisons the negotiations at the start, and it cannot exist at all except on a foundation of childish egotistic arrogance. This is not some game of dodgeball on the elementary school playground being played for bragging rights. This is the governing of a country. You are there to work with other human beings to do a serious and important job, not show one-upsmanship on a child's playground.

But, well, that is a dream. Reality returns. We're not going to get rational and mature leadership from these people. We are going to get schoolyard games, and we will be all the worse because of it.

1 comment:

mojo.rhythm said...


I basically agree. The whole situation is a farce. The MSM enthusiastically portrays it as a knuckles-down, serious bipartisan initiative between the two parties, putting their differences aside, working tenaciously, wheel-to-the-grindstone, for their undying love of America and their longing to see it whole again.


It is a facile pissing contest between two caucuses of the Business Party, in the name of a completely manufactured crisis. A crisis designed to bilk the American people, and siphon riches and wealth up to the rent-seeking criminals and corporate giants on Capitol Hill.

Since the GOP is a political monolith, and the Democrats are now essentially what moderate conservatives were in the 1970's, any chance of a fair and balanced deal for the American people is just a shadowy pipedream.

Polls consistently show, time and time again, that the American people support raising taxes on the rich, leaving Medicare and SS as they are, more spending on education, a reduction in the military budget, increased aid to the the poor (just not "welfare", thanks to Reagan), and so on and so forth.

Hence, I expect nothing less than the exact opposite of each and every one of these policies to be enacted as part of efforts to reduce the deficit.

The GOP, if controlling all three branches of government, would jump at the chance to do so. All they need is one conservative Democrat willing to genuflect to their far-right, Social Darwinist ideological extremism, and they have it in the bag.

One in six Americans are on food stamps, over two thirds do not have $1000 in their savings account for an emergency, real unemployment is at ~20% (and at Great Depression levels for African Americans), and homes are being foreclosed at record-breaking levels, while fat-cats and Big Business tycoons make record-breaking profits. Wages and social indicators have stagnated for three decades, while the upper 1% have accumulated more wealth then every member of the entire human race before 1980 combined.

This is a low-dow, dirty assault on the middle-class, and all the freedoms that the public have fought tooth and nail for. The rich know it too. They have actually start to arm themselves, buying predator drones for surveillance, and elite guard dogs at $230,000 a pop, in the dire expectation of a coming revolt of the population.

Something is happening in America.