Eclectic Rant: Time for the Super Committee to Bite the Bullet

By Ralph E. Stone
Wednesday November 09, 2011 - 10:27:00 AM

Maybe it is time for Americans to contact the members of the Super Committee to demand that its recommendations include raising taxes on the rich with that money to be used to provide relief for those Americans on the bottom of the economic pile, and no cuts in Medicare, Social Security, and other vital programs. A failure by the Super Committee to compromise will be just another symbol of a failed government. 

As we now know, the compromise debt ceiling law (“The Budget Control Act of 2011”) created a bi-partisan, 12-member special joint committee -- the “Super Committee” -- with the goal of achieving at least $1.5 trillion in budgetary savings over 10 years, from spending cuts or tax revenue. It will take seven of the twelve members to approve any recommendations. 

The special committee must report a bill with its recommendations by November 23, 2011. The recommendations would then have to be voted on by the full House and Senate under special rules. If the joint committee or Congress fail to act by December 23, 2011, the Act calls for automatic across-the-board cuts, split 50-50 between defense and non-defense spending.  

The Act also requires the House and Senate to vote on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, which would require a 2/3 majority in both houses. That vote must take place by December 31, 2011.  

The Super Committee could ask for an extension of time to report a bill with its recommendations 

The Super Committee members are: Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) Co-Chair; Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wa) Co-Chair; Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT); Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA); Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI); Rep. James Clybum (D-SC); Sen. John Kerry (D-MA); Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ); Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH); Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA); Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI); and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). 

According to a Bloomberg-Washington Post national poll conducted October 6-9, more than two-thirds of all Americans back higher taxes on the rich and an even larger number think Medicare and Social Security benefits should be left alone. And 53 percent of self-identified Republicans back an increase in taxes on households making more than $250,000. It should be noted that Hensarling, Kyl , Toomey, and Camp are on record as no-taxers, who along with the GOP presidential candidates and the Tea Party, seem at odds with the American people. 

Unfortunately, the Tea Party-supported members of Congress became beholden to the Tea Party platform, which in part means no new taxes even if the taxes are on the rich.. House members are up for election every two years. Thus, a vote for taxes on the rich by Republican members of the Super Committee would probably lose them Tea Party support in the next election..  

Thus, the chances of new taxes on the rich and closing tax loopholes will be difficult for the Republican members to support. Thus, across the board cuts will be the likely result, which will probably mean more reductions in the safety nets for the poor, unemployed, the elderly, and the sick. 

Many experts are warning of disastrous consequences if the Super Committee fails, including a repeat of last summer’s downgrade of the U.S. credit rating, a possible double-dip recession, increased market instability, a lost decade of economic growth, at least a 10 percent reduction in defense and non-defense discretionary spending (Medicare and Social Security are not discretionary spending), and a setback for any hope of future deficit reductions. 

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that just nine percent of likely U.S. Voters rate the job Congress is doing as good or excellent. Sixty-three percent view Congress’ job performance as poor. It is high time for Congress to raise its approval rating by finally working together to find a compromise solution to this country’s economic troubles. It begins with the Super Committee. I am as always hopeful, but not optimistic.