11/21/2011 08:45 am ET Updated Jan 21, 2012

Better Than Failure: Super Committee Can Set Up a 'National Referendum,' Avoid Sequestration

Not surprisingly, the Super Committee established as a compromise during the Boehner-McConnell Debt Ceiling Debacle has failed to find a formula to trim $1.2T from government deficits over the next decade.

Simply stated, Republicans want all of the savings from spending cuts to key programs for the middle class and poor, and Democrats want a large fraction from restoring taxes and tax rates to the rough balance they enjoyed during our economic heyday.

But, had they been agreed, none of these measures were to have been effective until 2013 anyhow.

Hence, the Super Committee can still salvage something that, for a Congress whose approval rating is just slightly north of Fidel Castro's, would actually make the American people feel empowered.

This is the proposal: All 12 Super Committee members agree to package two alternative plans in their proposal. The only criterion for each plan is that it cut the $1.2T (or more) from government deficits over the next decade. By doing that, sequester of military and medicare spending can be avoided.

Democrats and Republicans each get to submit one plan to this package. Because the CBO's rules forbid it from breaking apart bills for scoring, a provision would have to be added that the CBO score each of the plans separately.

Although technically one Congress cannot bind the next, an agreement that each plan get an up-or-down vote when the new Congress is seated can be made by the parties.

Then, run the November elections with each party touting its own plan that has been scored by the CBO, so the opportunities for dissembling are reduced.

There are 3 potential outcomes: i) the Republicans win the November elections, and Congress votes for the Republican plan; ii) the Democrats win the elections, and Congress votes for the Democratic plan; iii) the election results are ambiguous, returning divided government.

Under the first and second scenarios, the people would have spoken, and the American people would have directly chosen the country's direction in a clearly demarcated 'referendum.' The public outcry over the newly-elected Congress not following through on their representations would be so enormous that it is unlikely that even these glass-bubble inhabitants would fail to get the message.

The problem, of course, is the third outcome, a continuation of divided government. That is no different than it is today, the only hope being that those who participate in our next round of dysfunctional democracy care just a bit more about the American people than the current crop of Tea Partiers and crazies. But, if the American people return divided government, they get what they want.

The Super Committee has the opportunity to create the closest thing to a 'national referendum' that our system of government provides. People on all sides of the argument want to be empowered, and this would do it.

The time is right. The implications are large. The outcome, whatever it is, will be appropriate for a democracy.

Who knows, Congress's approval rating may even soar to 10% -- about the half of the percent of dentists who do not recommend Crest®.