When Failure Is The Only Option: Supercommittee Members Celebrate Theirs By Watching Football

When Failure Is The Only Option: Supercommittee Members Celebrate Theirs By Watching Football

Our elected leaders are too willing to let their country down, mostly because they know they'll never pay for it.

Proof that politicians feel perfectly secure in failing the American people? The supercommittee, one of the greatest Congressional power bottlenecks in American history, failed in their mandate to find $1.2 trillion in cuts to the federal budget as a component of the Budget Control Act passed this August. GOP members, acknowledging their complete dismissal of that mandate, spent Thursday night, the last official meeting, in a sports bar drinking beer and watching football. On the Sunday before, Fred Upton (R-MI) left D.C. for a Redskins game while other committee members quit early to go on Thanksgiving vacation. What has come of the political process when congress, unable to do their jobs, scapegoats a small bipartisan committee with all of that responsibility, Then, the committee plans to fail more than a week before their deadline with no remorse or contingency? We’re a long way from Truman’s, “The Buck Stops Here”. Is it a sign of the times, or a symptom of the system?

Woodrow Wilson, in the 19th century, outlined a number of failings of our congressional system. Chief among the problems is the lack of national accountability. Our elected representatives are beholden to specific constituencies for their re-election, and to protect their power in congress they need to make decisions for that small group of people. Thus, when there is a national issue at hand, and it doesn’t necessarily target their specific base or it will force them to make an unpopular decision for their base, they will essentially punt the problem down the road; another administration, another congress, another generation away. This has been the modus operandi for decades, and it’s very rare that an administration comes along that takes full responsibility for making touch decisions; a perfect marriage of a President and congress that own that platform.

Thus, in a swing election year and under significant pressure from both constituencies and their parties, the committee simply buckled. Democrats, who had offered up some of their “holy cow”, were met with stubborn dismissal by Republican members unwilling to give even the notion of compromise. Rather than making difficult compromises for the good of the country, these members were unilaterally serving their party’s ideology and ac reactionary base (one that was willing to see the government shutdown and receive a credit downgrade before the BCA was passed in August). These are not lawmakers, and they’re not representatives of a national government. They are political puppets and corporate bagmen serving a party brand.

Now Republicans are fighting tooth and nail against Defense cuts of about $600 billion, the predetermined “trigger” cuts from the supercommittee's failure. Although Obama has already stated that he would veto any attempt to stall or dismiss the spending cuts, congress continues to attempt to slither out of any accountability. The Pentagon, which has already determined about $500 billion in cuts over the next decade, would be hit with just over a trillion in cuts should the trigger take effect. However, after 10 years of consistent budgetary growth under the Bush administration (about $20 billion a year), the Pentagon’s budget has become bloated and unsustainable. Even cutting a trillion from their budget is only about 17% of their total operating budget, less than many states cut from their education budgets in the last year alone. This cut would be absorbed over 10 years.

Where the hell are our priorities? Where are our “heads of state”? Where is the accountability for lawmakers and the political process that seem so willing to mandate accountability for everybody else (except banks and big businesses of course). There’s no question that the establishment has become a dysfunctional and self-serving institution. The question is what can anybody do about it?