Less than two weeks from the deadline for Congress’s Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to present its deficit reduction plan, there are no signs of a deal. Democrats insist that any deal requires tax increases and Republicans are only willing to accept revenue increases in the form of closing tax loopholes. Both sides know that any of the proposed cuts could be politically damaging.
The formation of the supercommittee sought to minimize the risk of this situation happening. When negotiations for a grand bargain on the debt deal went south over the summer, a proposal for two rounds of cuts relating to the debt ceiling increase made it into the final piece of legislation, the Budget Control Act of 2011.
The first round occurred immediately, with a $900 billion debt ceiling increase and a spending decrease of $917 billion from the baseline over the next ten years.
The second round allows the President to ask for a debt ceiling increase if more cuts and revenue increases are signed into law. The supercommittee was tasked with finding over $1 trillion more in cuts in order for the debt ceiling to be raised again.
Allowing a bipartisan committee to search for cuts and ways to increase revenue became the most politically viable option. Legislators did not have to vote on over $2 trillion in cuts and Republicans did not have to vote for tax increases in order to increase the debt ceiling before the August 2 deadline. The bill passed both houses of Congress.
The idea of the supercommittee working out a grand deal was a complete fantasy. Most Washington politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, do not seriously care about reducing spending. If they did, the supercommittee would have never existed. The debt ceiling would never need to be increased, and spending would be capped. This is all a political game. It is not politically salient to cut programs.
Those behind the legislation knew the insurmountable issues the supercommittee would face. This is where sequestration, better known as cuts across the board, comes in. If the supercommittee does not produce legislation, Congress can still increase the debt ceiling another $1.2 trillion, which then causes sequestration to the tune of $1.2 trillion to occur. The sequestration cuts would be devastating to the defense department (an incentive for Republicans to compromise) and for many domestic programs (an incentive for Democrats to compromise).
Neither side is willing to compromise, and now efforts are under way to thwart the sequestration and still raise the debt ceiling when necessary. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has proposed legislation replacing the drastic military cuts with more cuts on domestic spending and congressional pay. Democratic member of the House, John Garamendi, said point blank that the sequestration will not occur.
Republicans made a few concessions on Tuesday with regard to revenue increases. According to The Washington Post, the Republican plan would raise “overall tax collections by $250 billion, mainly by limiting the value of itemized deductions such as write-offs for home mortgage interest, state and local taxes and other expenses.” The plan also includes extending the Bush tax cuts, which Democrats oppose.
Even with this revenue concession, the committee is not any closer to a deal. Members of the committee are still in a fictional world where they believe that they are going to be able to cut $3 trillion in a bipartisan manner.
Conservatives were criticized over the summer for risking the full faith and credit of the United States over a battle of tax increases. When all of the Republican presidential candidates (with the exception of Jon Huntsman) opposed the Budget Control Act, Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, accused Republicans of allowing the nation to go into default to prevent tax increases.
The reason I, along with many other conservatives, opposed the final piece of legislation had nothing to do with taxes. It was about the inability of those in Washington to get serious about reducing spending, and it was about a politically convenient idea cooked up in the back rooms of the Capitol to have this supercommittee. I could not see enough cuts being approved by the committee for the sequestration to not go into effect.
Now, what many conservatives feared is upon us: two weeks to go and still no deal — just obstructionism coming from both parties, absurdity coming from Washington politicians who cannot even agree to cuts that are not put into effect until fiscal year 2013 and scurrying to find some way to avert the cuts if legislation is not passed.
We all know what the next course of action for Congress will be: a delay in the release of the supercommittee’s proposed legislation. Congress will allow it, and we will continue on this path of more spending with no plan to pay for it.
While the media focuses on allegations against Herman Cain, politicians in Washington are pushing America along its path to fiscal ruin. And nobody is paying attention.
Conservatives were right: politicians cannot be trusted to cut spending.
Tyler is a sophomore. He can be reached at email@example.com.