With a looming deadline, the super committee is under tremendous pressure.
As November 23rd closes in, the 12 members of the super committee (Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction) are being approached, attacked, pushed, cajoled, advised, and pressured from all sides.
The difficult task of finding $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions has fallen into the laps of 12 hand-selected members of Congress, six from the House and six from the Senate. Some have called it a daunting task. One-point-five trillion does seem like a lot of money! But their time horizon is 10 years.
An entire decade to reduce the deficit by only $150 billion a year?
With all due respect to the 12 congressional scapegoats, that's not an onerous task.
Raise some taxes, cut some spending, trim some waste, eliminate some duplication, reduce congressional staff and you're there.
The cuts and revenue increases we're talking about can be made on the back of a bar napkin.
That is, unless you've sold your soul to the devil and pledged not to increase taxes even when they're not only historically, but ridiculously low.
Representatives Heath Shuler (D-NC) and Mike Simpson (R-ID), in a letter to the super committee two weeks ago, urged the committee to succeed believing their success is vital to the country's future. This would require, as stated in the letter, putting all options -- mandatory and discretionary spending, and revenues -- on the table.
One hundred of their fellow House members signed the letter.
Rumor, changing everyday, has the committee close to a solution one day and hopelessly locked the next.
Intransigence is blamed for the impasse with some claiming equal culpability between Republicans' reluctance to address revenues (taxes) and Democrats' firm stance against reducing 'entitlements.'
But there is a huge difference between the two positions.
Republicans pledged loyalty, not to 'the people,' but to a 'random person,' as Speaker John Boehner described Grover Norquist.
Democrats have alluded to possible changes in social net programs to help reduce the deficit. But, 'the people' like the programs they've paid into most of their lives. Democratic committee members have indicated they will fight for 'the people' on these programs.
There is no equal culpability here. One group is pro-wealthy, the other pro-America.
Republican's have semantically moved the debate on revenues. But their Luntz-type change is only a disguise for continuing their failed policies.
Reforming the tax code is necessary and has validity in the long-term. But, it has become the rallying cry of Republicans and their shift from the debate over raising taxes to reforming the tax code is weak and destructive. Getting rid of loopholes and simplifying the code are both good things. But their attempt to divert the public's attention from the current problem is dishonest.
Letting the top two tax brackets expire would add $700 billion to revenue and would reduce the required deficit mandate by nearly half over the 10 years. On the other hand, eliminating loopholes, but reducing top marginal rates, and the number of brackets to offset them -- a revenue neutral goal -- does nothing to reduce the deficit and could in fact add to it.
Changing the discourse using semantics does nothing to produce a solution.
With even a little cooperation from the Department of Defense, the super committee could find $100 billion per year in defense cuts. That much could be extracted from waste, overpayments, management, and corruption alone.
Reinstating a fair Estate Tax could provide another $20 billion per year. Increasing carried interest tax to 20% and adding a minimal transaction tax for each stock transaction could generate billions more in revenue each year.
Rewriting the proposed repatriation legislation and drafting a more responsible and equitable bill could reduce the deficit by as much as $280 billion immediately -- instead of the paltry $50 billion -- and bring nearly $30 billion each year for the next decade.
Simply stated, these moves alone would trim the deficit by $2.4 trillion in the 10 years without even touching important social net programs and much needed programs for low income families, the elderly, students, the unemployed, and the homeless.
The truth is, the mandate dumped on these 12 individuals could be easily accomplished with minimal damage to the economy and recovery, by rational, reasonable, and responsible people.
But, can the super committee even see the truth? In order to do that they must remove their blinders.
The potential of nothing, something weak, ineffective, or damaging coming out of the super committee is a 'real' possibility.
Should they choose to do the credible thing, embrace the suggestions here, and do what's right and fair for the American people, they can honestly say...
Their solution originated on the back of a bar napkin!