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Washington Examiner


Supercommittee Didn't Have to Fail

November 25, 2011

By Diana Furchtgott-Roth

Twelve members of the supercommittee, Republicans and Democrats, senators and representatives, failed to cut $1.2 trillion from the budget over the next decade. But it didn’t have to be that way.

In the scheme of the federal budget, cuts of $1.2 trillion over the next decade are not large. They sound substantial to you and me, because we’re used to living from paycheck to paycheck and dreading that next mortgage payment, but they’re a small fraction of projected federal spending.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that federal spending over the next decade will be $44 trillion, so cutting $1.2 trillion is less than 3 percent of federal spending.

And spending does not have to be spread evenly over the next 10 years. The supercommittee could have cut more in the years later in the decade, as did Congress when it passed the Budget Control Act at the beginning of August.

Despite New York Times columnist Paul Krugman’s assertion that the Budget Control Act “slashes spending,” the effects of the act are relatively modest. Spending does not even decline, according to the CBO projections, but continues to grow steadily.

There are no changes to entitlements, such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and after the projected cuts they continue to grow at a rapid pace.

Few realize that congressional spending cuts for a given year are not subtracted from the prior year’s spending. Rather, cuts are subtracted from a budget that grows on autopilot, particularly entitlement programs.

That explains how Congress can say that it is cutting spending over 10 years yet produce a series of budgets that continue to grow.

To put the small magnitude of the spending cuts in perspective, $1.2 trillion in cuts over 10 years is less than America’s deficit for fiscal year 2011.

Unfortunately, party differences stood in the way of achieving the supercommittee’s mission.

Consider the choice of Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is charged with raising funds for next year’s elections.

The DSCC is entirely political, with a goal of electing Democrats regardless of policy. Her job is to make sure that Republicans lose as many seats as possible in the next election.

Therefore, it was within her interest that all supercommittee Republicans look as bad as possible in the press. Now that she can accuse Republicans of failure, it will help raise funds for Democratic candidates in senatorial races.

On Tuesday, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Republican Study Committee said, “Some on the supercommittee even tried to entice liberals to cooperate by offering as much as $300 billion in higher taxes -- something I and many other conservatives opposed.”

He continued, “But there were never enough tax hikes to make the Democrats happy. They demanded tax hikes that would transfer at least another $1 trillion from producers to politicians, allowing the spending spree to continue.”

Although entitlements were off the table, Congress must at some point decide how to reduce spending in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which are taking an increasing share of the federal budget.

States are leading the way. In Indiana, the Healthy Indiana Plan encourages consumers to shop around for routine health care through health care savings accounts, after a required annual checkup and coverage for major problems. The plan has saved Indiana millions in health care costs.

The challenge is to implement some of these innovative solutions at the federal level. Congress needs to cut far more than $1.2 trillion over the next decade in order to avoid Europe’s debacle.

Original Source:



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