Chuck Schumer says “no,” for what that’s worth. In general, though, that actually is the consensus: No way the Super Committee will be able to achieve in a short time frame what the full Congress was unable to achieve in a much longer period of time.
If Congress is to have time to vote on whatever package the Super Committee ultimately presents, then the Gang of 12 essentially must strike a deal by the end of this week.
But Democrats are not sufficiently motivated by the sequestration triggers to present a plan Republicans find palatable. In fact, Democrats want the automatic defense cuts. Nor have the $900 billion in automatic cuts to discretionary spending done anything to dissuade Committee Dems from demanding tax hikes. Schumer says Republicans oppose “net revenues,” but that’s hardly the case. Republicans oppose an increase in tax rates — but want an increase in revenue no less than Democrats. WSJ’s Stephen Moore explains:
But raising rates and raising revenues are different. Eliminating loopholes in exchange for making the Bush tax cuts permanent after 2013 is on the table—and by broadening the tax base, this could bring in tens of billions of new revenues each year. Says Mr. Hensarling: “Republicans want more revenues. We want more revenues by growing the economy; we’re not happy with revenues at 14% of GDP, but we don’t want to do it by raising rates.”
Meantime, Democrats don’t match the Republican commitment to spending cuts — the most important of which could come through entitlement reform. The Democrats’ plan offers less than $1 in spending cuts for every $1 more in taxes. They propose $1.2 trillion in tax increases in exchange for just $1 trillion in entitlement reform.
Republican entitlement reform proposals are simple and straightforward: Raise the Social Security and Medicare retirement ages, raise co-pays and premiums for Medicare and make adjustments to the cost-of-living benefit formula. These reforms are fair: They ask those directly benefiting from these entitlement programs to shoulder a bit more of the budget-busting burden. Asking the rich to pay more in taxes “just because they can” isn’t.
Keep in mind, too, that whatever cuts the Super Committee makes will be cuts spread out over a 10-year period. In other words, they’ll be future cuts — what Tea Party Patriots national coordinator Jenny Beth Martin calls “phantom cuts.”
The Super Committee story underscores one depressing truth: The debt-limit deal John Boehner struck this summer — the deal that engendered the Super Committee in the first place — wasn’t a victory for conservatives. It all but assured cuts to defense spending and did nothing to ensure entitlement reform. Republican Committee member Jeb Hensarling says the defense spending cuts will surely not materialize. At some point in the next 10 years, he says, the American people will say: Wait a minute. We can’t afford to cut defense spending. While that’s comforting in the defense context, it’s not so much from the substantive cuts standpoint. What cuts will materialize?
Everyone has to get over the idea that an easy solution to the deficit and debt crisis exists: The necessary cuts — and also the necessary tax reforms, including potential new limits on deductions for charitable donations or mortgage interest payments — will be painful. The electorate has to be prepared to reward lawmakers who make the tough decisions and to punish those who take the easy, politically savvy route.