As the Congressional Super Committee struggles to agree to just $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years, a bicameral, bipartisan coalition says: Hey, you know what would make this whole process easier? If y’all tried to cut $4 trillion from the nation’s next 10 years of borrowing!
Actually, the idea makes a lot of sense: In the first place, cuts of $1.2 trillion in 10 years will barely make a dent in the debt if the U.S. continues to run the kind of deficits it’s run during Obama’s first term (deficits of $1,101 billion, $1,299 billion and $1,293 in FYs 2010, 2011 and 2012). But secondly, both sides might be more willing to make concessions for the sake of a larger figure to tout.
Not to say that neither side has made a concession: Republicans rolled out a proposal a week ago that included $300 billion in new revenues. Democrats objected because the revenues came from a tax code overhaul that would include cuts for the wealthy. That’s pretty blatant bias, if you ask me: They object to new revenues just because “the rich” might benefit, as well as the middle class, from certain tax reforms.
But no matter. Perhaps if the Super Committee’s target was $4 trillion, Republicans might come up with a proposal that offers even more in down-the-line revenue increases for, say, $1.2 trillion in upfront spending cuts. Wouldn’t that be a pleasant change? Cuts that are guaranteed to materialize, tax hikes that might not?
Sadly, all of this is fantasy: The Super Committee appears squarely destined for failure. In the end, the inability to complete a task everybody agrees must be completed — that is, to take a meaningful step toward reducing the debt and deficit — underscores that deficit reduction for its own sake isn’t actually a priority to the left. They’re happy to use the deficit and debt as an excuse to raise revenues, but they’re not interested to actually shrink government. Why? Because their vision for America hinges on Big Government. They think expanded government programs and increased regulation increase U.S. global competitiveness and enhance quality of life for individual Americans.
For all the gains the Tea Party has made over the past couple of years, it turns out that the debate hasn’t shifted so far as we thought. This summer, I rejoiced to think the question was not whether to cut but what to cut. Turns out the question is still “whether,” after all.
We still have to make the case that out-of-control government spending and costly regulations burden the economy and hamper our ability to compete in the world. Consider just one small piece of the puzzle: We’ll continue to have little clout to censure China for its cheating until we clean up our own fiscal act and stop allowing the PRC to own more and more of our debt. To do that, we can’t borrow more. We have to cut.