Schrodinger's Super Committee?

As the clock continues to tick for congress on our eventual budget deal, the work of the so-called super committee is looking more and more like a case of Schrodinger’s Cat. Deliberating in private, a few leaks and hints aside, observers on both sides are left to wonder if the eventual “solution” they produce will be viable or if it’s just a dead cat. I suppose we’ll have to wait to open the box to find out.

This weekend I was reminded of this with two very opposite, but equally dismal views of this august body. First, from the Left, Nancy Altman speaks pitch perfect OWS language while sounding the warning bell that the evil 1% are about to use what some others uncharitably refer to as “the Cat Food Commission” to pick the pockets of the 99%.

The 1% is using the super-secret Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (a.k.a. the Super Committee), to reach directly into the pockets of the 99% and steal hundreds of billions of dollars from them. This committee has unprecedented power. It has been meeting behind closed doors for weeks. Finally, though, its plans are leaking out, and they are not pretty.

In order to spare defense contractors, the pharmaceutical industry, and other fat cats, while appeasing the credit agencies, whose AAA ratings to crony-clients helped crash the economy, the Supercommittee has proposed slashing benefits for current and future beneficiaries of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, notwithstanding that the current deficit has nothing to do with these programs.

This demonstrates the problem that the president will continue to face on his own flank. Even if we can get a group of congressmen to acknowledge the fact that entitlement programs must evolve or collapse under their own weight, his base will see any move in that direction as an absolute betrayal.

From the other side of the ideological divide, Smitty seems to be throwing up his hands in despair before we even crack open the door. He’s responding to some comments by Megan McArdle, who sees the best case scenario as none too rosy. “The bad news is that $1.2 trillion is hardly enough to address our future budget problems, and there’s no indication that there’s any hope of a bigger deal.”

In nautical terms, we may have come to all stop on the main engines as a result of the 2010 election, but we still have way on, and the helm still has us pointing to disaster.

Anybody who seriously thought, or still thinks, that we’re not going to get into some wrenching brinksmanship with a side order of disaster? The mere existence of a Super Committee is an admission that the senior heads in both chambers of Congress are useless. These risible clowns in the Senate have not passed a budget in > 900 days. That would seem to put the 1,000 day mark somewhere around the traditional State of the Union Address at the end of January.

To be clear, I wasn’t a fan of the entire idea of this super committee in the first place. The fate of a critical set of decisions will be placed in the hands of the representatives of a relatively small slice of the population. The rest of the Washington crew has essentially abandoned ship, unable to question the decision for fear of some terrible Sword of Damocles hanging over their collective heads.

But this is what we seem to be stuck with, and they don’t appear to be any more immune to deadlock than the legislative branch at large. The Democrats are still going to be looking for substantial revenue increases as part of the total package and the Republicans aren’t going to have it. How they follow that formula to achieve a relatively paltry $1.2T cuts over ten years is a mystery, and even if they do manage it, it’s more of a band aid than a cure.