Is anyone surprised that the so-called Super Committee failed to arrive at a plan to cut the U.S. budget by $1.2 trillion?
I’m not. It was doomed to failure from the outset. Consider the intransigence displayed by Congress during the summer debacle over the debt ceiling and legislators’ unwillingness to budge one iota from the trenches they dug themselves into, and then try to get six members of each party to agree on a proposal they could take back to that same stubborn, partisan body and pass it.
It could do nothing but fail.
Now each party points fingers at the other, claiming that the “other side” would not bargain in good faith. No wonder Congress’ approval rating is well below that of a used car salesman. Reminds me of playground scuffles: “He started it.” “No, he did.” “Did not,” “Did, too.” Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
We deserve better. Or maybe we don’t. We keep electing them, over, and over, and over again.
I think a twelve-member panel of ordinary citizens could have done better. At least they would not have put their political careers over the good of the country. And that’s what partisanship is all about—re-election, remaining in or regaining power; voting in block to appease party leadership with little to no regard for what’s best for the nation.
And to assume that balancing a budget as grossly unbalanced as ours can be leveled by working on only one side of the teeter-totter is ludicrous. We got into this mess from both sides of the see-saw. We overspent—unfunded wars and inadequately administered entitlement programs—and we cut revenues at the same time. I’m not an economist but it doesn’t take one to figure out where that equation leads.
And to pull us out of this morass, it seems to me that we have to find ways to cut spending— without eliminating what is good and strong and American about America—and increase revenue—without over-taxing the folks responsible for making America America. That would be the diminishing middle class, the folks who build houses, run small businesses and teach our children.
We have to be vigilant not to cut budgets to the point that our infrastructure continues to decline—bridges fail, highways deteriorate, electricity grids prove inadequate for growth. We have to maintain, or regain, an edge in education. We have to support research and development. We have to preserve a productive agricultural sector to feed our populace.
We ignore these or shortchange these issues at our peril. To do so means abdicating our position as the world’s most credible democracy. We can cut to the bone, crawl into our nationalistic shell and isolate ourselves from the world. We’ve tried that before—with less than stellar results.
Politicians have talked about the exceptionalism of America. We have been exceptional, perhaps we still are. But that exceptionalism came from and will come from again, the ability for Americans to work together for the good of America. Currently, we seem to be working at cross-purposes, pitting one segment against another and with no room for compromise.
America’s past success and America’s future achievements depend on our ability to consider other views and to find common ground. The only common ground in Washington now seems to be quicksand. If a member of one party dares to take a step toward the other view, he or she disappears into that quagmire.
Economies ebb and flow, wax and wane, as do political careers. Currently, we’re witnessing too much politics and too little leadership—all across the board. And until that changes we can expect more failure.