The creation of the Congressional “supercommittee” last August was a major victory for Washington’s austerity class. It was shrouded in secrecy, exempted from regular Congressional rules and required to choose between two unpopular options in order to enact $1.2 trillion in savings: a so-called grand bargain that would significantly curtail the social safety net vs. deep, automatic across the board cuts at a time of economic peril.
Yet the $1.2 trillion in savings, which will come on top of the $2 trillion in deficit reduction already enacted during the Obama administration, is not enough for some members of the austerity class. For months groups like the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) have been urging the supercommittee to “go big” and enact a $4 trillion deal. Eighty House members, lead by Representatives Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Heath Shuler (D-NC), echo that sentiment in a soon-to-be-released letter. The CRFB even argued that tripling the size of the supercommittee’s mandate “increase the chances of success.”
I find that very hard to believe. During the debt ceiling fiasco John Boehner rejected President Obama’s $4 trillion grand bargain offer and Republicans have only hardened their position since then, with every major Republican presidential candidate saying they would oppose a deficit plan that was even 10:1 spending cuts to tax increases. Believing that a $4 trillion deal can be reached given the current level of GOP intransigence is borderline insane.
Indeed, this week committee Republicans immediately rejected Senator Max Baucus’s $3 trillion debt rejection offer, which included $500 billion in proposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. (The triggered cuts—which exempt Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security and require that half the savings come from defense spending—will likely be far more palatable to progressives than any type of grand bargain).
By relentlessly pushing the $4 trillion number, which they claim is needed to stabilize the US debt-to-GDP ratio, the austerians are setting the supercommittee up for failure. That way the austerity class can continue to bang the drum for more and more deficit reduction, writes David Dayen of Firedoglake.
We’ll ALWAYS need $4 trillion. Without that big and urgent a need, you cannot cut things like Social Security or Medicare. You cannot acknowledge the deficit reduction that’s already taken place. You cannot acknowledge the fact that doing nothing would bring the medium-term deficit almost entirely into balance. You cannot acknowledge that the debt situation is trivial relative to the jobs crisis. You must only repeat $4 trillion, $4 trillion, $4 trillion over and over again like a mantra.
Indeed, the “go big” campaign is totally divorced from political and economic reality. Stan Collender, a longtime budget expert at Qorvis Communications, notes three reasons why: