To no one’s surprise, members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, aka the supercommittee, announced Monday that they had failed to agree on a $1.2 trillion debt reduction plan. As a result, no additional spending cuts or tax hikes will go into effect this year. True, there are $1.2 trillion in mandated spending sequestrations that will begin to take effect in 2012, but these are almost guaranteed to be repealed by a future Congress. That being the case, it’s difficult not to view the whole supercommittee process as a charade intended only to make it appear that Washington was “doing something” to try to control federal spending, and in the process protect the jobs of incumbents of both political parties.
Meanwhile, Republicans on the supercommittee were right to oppose the new taxes their Democratic counterparts demanded as part of any deal. Nobody outside of Washington believes any additional revenues generated by higher taxes would be used to reduce the national debt. Every time in the recent past when conservatives agreed to such deals, taxes went up, but spending and debt never went down.
In 1982, for example, President Ronald Reagan agreed to three dollars in spending cuts for every dollar in tax hikes in 1982, but spending rose from $745 billion that year to more than $1.06 trillion when Reagan left office. Years later, Reagan famously quipped, “I’m still waiting for those three dollars of spending cuts I was promised from Congress.”
The reality is that Washington spends too much, not that it taxes the people too little. Raising taxes on “the rich” won’t fix this problem. Even if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire, tax revenues as a percentage of gross domestic product would reach 21 percent by 2021, far above the historical 18 percent average. But spending is predicted to reach 26.4 percent of GDP that same year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Higher taxes mean only one thing — more government spending.
Washington’s professional politicians have locked themselves into a public policy paralysis without any real attempt at negotiations. This gridlock will not change until voters replace the professional politicians in both parties who have clearly demonstrated in recent months that they aren’t up to the task of putting the nation’s best interests before their desire to stay in office.
Despite the Democrats’ rhetoric about “everything being on the table,” it’s clear that, without Republicans caving on tax hikes, nothing remotely resembling spending cuts or entitlement reform was ever really on the supercommittee table. It’s time to leave this charade behind, fund the government through next November and then let the American voters in the 2012 election decide what kind of country they want.