CONGRESS LOOSES THE BET
November 22, 2011
The conventional wisdom out of Washington is that the Super Committee would not reach an agreement to cut between $1.2 and $1.5 trillion dollars over the next ten years.
The Super Committee's official name is the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction but its initials, JSCDF, don't lend themselves to tripping easily over the English-speaking tongue any more than that volcano in Iceland that blew its top a last year, so it was unofficially named the Super Committee.
The Super Committee's acronym would be JessCuhDef. The volcano's name iss Eyjafjallajökull. Almost rhymes.
That same narrative holds that the six Representatives (3 Republicans - 3 Democrats) and six Senators (3 Repulicans - 3 Democrats) who were picked to serve on the Super Committee by their leaders have failed in their mission to effect real change in the tax code, in entitlement, and in the trajectory of federal spending.
I believe that the need to appoint a Super Committee in the first place was a failure of governance on the part of both parties, in both Chambers and, just to complete the rogues' gallery, on the part of the President of the United States.
We pay rank-and-file Representatives and Senators $174,000 per year. Members of the Leadership get about $20,000 more. The Speaker's salary is $223,500.
Before you hit the SEND key asking me, the President's salary is $400,000 the Vice President gets approximately Speaker money, $230,700.
My point is we pay all these people all this money to run the Federal government. Over the years they have continually found ways to abrogate that responsibility.
The most well known are the so-called BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) Commissions. These is groups of civilians appointed to decide on which military bases should be closed and to where, if anywhere the activities conducted on those bases should be transferred.
Members of the House and Senate who had argued forcefully (or whose predecessors had done) for a military base to be sited in their District or State found themselves unable to go back to their constituents and tell them that closing that base was in the national interest
So, they adopted a plan to hand off the responsibility to one of the five commissions which have been assembled since 1988 and the trick is, the Congress can't amend the recommendation of the BRAC Commission. They can only take it or leave it.
That way Members can go home and say, "It wasn't me. I WANTED to preserve this base which has been considered surplus since the Spanish-American War, but what could I do? The BRAC Commission took it out of my hands."
The Super Committee is the latest in a long line of looking for ways not to do what we pay them to do. Automatic triggers are a favorite. I believe the Congress gets an automatic raise every year unless they vote to forego it. Don't vote? The raise is automatic.
Pretty good, huh? If only they would use that creativity to, as the Preamble to the Constitution puts it "promote the common welfare" we'd all be a lot better off.
I feel the same way about a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We PAY the Members of the House and Senate to make good spending and taxing decisions. They have it within their current power to pass a balanced budget each year.
A BBA would just be another opportunity for Members to go home, shrug their shoulders, and tell their constituents they really, really wanted to fight for money to build a new city hall, but "What could I do? The Balanced Budget Amendment took it out of my hands."
The inability of the U.S. Congress to make even the most simple decisions for fear they will be taken to task by their constituents, is making me re-examine my position on term limits.
I would love to see a serious study of state legislatures which have term-limit laws to see if the decisions made by the members are any better than their peers in states where there are no limits.
Right now, I'm leaning toward putting limits on Members of the U.S House and Senate.
We believe that the Constitution of the United States speaks for itself. There is no need to rewrite, change or reinterpret it to suit the fancies of special interest groups or protected classes.