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William Bradley

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Sound and Fury: The Utterly Unsurprising "Super-Committee" Flop

Posted: 11/22/11 05:00 PM ET

"Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."


Macbeth - Act V, Scene V

Was there anything in politics more predictable than the failure of the so-called Congressional "super-committee" on the budget?

As we've seen in California over the past several years, you simply can't get any sizable number of Republican politicians to go along with tax hikes and/or corporate loophole closures. In California, liberals and moderates have struggled to put together fiscal plans combining big cuts and some taxes only to find them spurned by all but a very few Republicans cowering in a party overtaken by the anti-government gang.

It's what that party is all about -- or, at least, what the once GOP has come to be about -- that and some other stuff we know about fear of the other and insecurity about the American identity.

And what happens now that nothing has happened with the laughably titled "super-committee?"

Not much.


Republican presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich, campaigning Monday at the University of New Hampshire, said he would not compromise on taxes if he were a member of the Congressional super-committee on the budget, arguing that taxes spoil job creation. What job creation? He described the super-committee as "hopeless" from the beginning.

That's right. As I pointed out over the summer, in a piece about President Barack Obama and budget kabuki, the automatic cuts don't kick in till 2013, and later. Which means the real deadline for action is sometime not long before then. As in the end of not this year, but next year.

Or not.

Because the Bush tax cuts end at the end of next year, unless they are extended. Which, not incidentally, solves a huge chunk of several problems.

I think Obama knows this, and, while he may gnash his teeth and get some laughs out of the endless sturm und drang about what he is supposedly doing or not doing, recognizes that it is mostly just the sound and fury that passes for political debate these days.


Of course, Congress may attempt to use this as an excuse to avoid acting on extending payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits. But that would simply be par for the course for this Congress, well on its way to being the most unpopular in history.

And ratings agencies might take the opportunity for another downgrade, but if they didn't factor the failure of the super-committee into their forecasts, they are decidedly in the wrong line of work.

The two parties are simply too far apart, the appointees themselves too entrenched, with party discipline built in to prevent agreement, especially on the Republican side.

Obama has a fairly light Thanksgiving week, though he is weighing in on this, as well as making a trip to New Hampshire to talk up his American Jobs Act, blocked at virtually every turn by conservative Republicans, even though it consists of items previously backed by significant numbers of Republican members of Congress.


Campaigning Tuesday in New Hampshire, President Barack Obama said that GOP lawmakers can make good on their anti-tax pledges by voting for his payroll tax cut extension.

I have always had extremely low expectations about anything major happening with the super-committee, or with the budget issue.

Last July, here on the Huffington Post, I wrote a piece called "Obama Kabuki: The Budget and the Politics of Positioning."

What is he really after? To solve the multi-faceted problem? Well, sure, that would be nice. But what he is really after is what all first-term presidents are after. A second term.

Obama, in my opinion, is engaged in what former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called political "kabuki." A stylized dramatic dance that draws attention while obscuring true purpose.

And what is his true purpose? To appeal to moderates by occupying the center and pushing the Republicans to the starboard side fringe.

Meanwhile, Obama is flipping out a lot of liberals and other folks on the left.

But why worry?

Obama probably realizes that he is free to posture in favor of big deficit reductions, and placing major entitlement cuts on the table, because the Republicans will never go for it, even though they say those are top priorities. Why won't they? Because they, thanks to their ideology, and their extraordinarily insistent hyper-partisan base, can't countenance the accompanying loophole closures and tax hikes for the rich. Even though the cuts in Obama's proposal dwarf the revenues. And even though the tax hikes would not be "recovery killers" occurring this year or next year. ...

Discussions continue. But in reality, the federal budget deficit has always been a less pressing issue than a state budget deficit -- with conservatives blithely pursuing unfunded wars and tax cuts and liberals expanding social programs -- because the feds are allowed to print money and run deficits and the states are not.

When did the Republicans start caring about the federal budget deficit and the debt ceiling? That's easy. January 20th, 2009. ...


That holds up well, doesn't it?

Today is the 48th anniversary of the death of President John F. Kennedy, a date which marked the death of much hope, both her in America and around the world. One can only imagine what the coolly sardonic JFK would say about this week's big event or, more accurately, non-event in American politics.

Would it be something elegant, befitting his soaring speeches? Or would it be something earthy, befitting his Navy days in the Pacific War?

Whatever it would be, and we can probably all guess, it is certainly ironic that this utter confirmation of the devolution of politics should come now.


You can check things during the day on my site, New West Notes ... www.newwestnotes.com.


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