Let us count the magic beans

The congressional deficit-reduction “supercommittee” said Nov. 21 it had failed to reach an agreement on slashing the U.S. deficit by at least $1.2 trillion. That failure will supposedly trigger mandatory cuts to military spending and some social programs, starting in 2013.

Or, perhaps, when pigs fly.

“After months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee’s deadline,” Sen. Patty Murray (D., Wash.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas), co-chairs of the the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, said in a statement.

“The defeat is the latest sign of how hard it has been for Washington’s political class to come up with unpopular tax increases or spending cuts to rein in budget deficits that have totaled about $1.3 trillion or more over the last three fiscal years,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

Really? Let us recall what got us to this pass. Back on July 31, Americans were told Washington insiders had reached an “historic compromise” to raise the federal government’s so-called “debt limit.” (In fact, it has never limited anything.)

Any member of Congress who wanted to limit the federal government’s borrowing and spending had in hand, at that point, the mechanism to make that happen: simply vote against any deal to hike the debt ceiling.

Instead, so-called “fiscally responsible conservatives” agreed to raise the borrow-and-spend ceiling, in exchange for a highly colorful and impressive handful of magic beans.

What were those beans?

As their first magic bean, Washington’s big spenders agreed to hold a vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment.

An unwise version which Democrats should have loved — it set no cap on spending; it set no supermajority requirement for future tax hikes — drew only 25 Democratic votes and failed to advance out of the House of Representatives last week, which means it won’t even be sent over for its planned burial in the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate.


The second magic bean was the “supercommittee,” which just “failed” — assuming anyone in the know ever intended it to do anything else. (Hint: Why would Democratic leader Harry Reid pack the Democratic side of the table with high-profile demagogues and standard-bearers of collectivism — John Kerry, Patty Murray — rather than little-known budget committee number-crunchers?)

In recent weeks, members seemed to spend more time positioning themselves to blame the opposition than buying additional red magic markers to cross out more federal expenditures on their budget sheets.

Democrats accused Republicans of refusing to “raise taxes on the rich,” of course.

In fact, Republicans were wise to turn down proposals which would have cemented huge and permanent job-destroying tax hikes immediately, in exchange for feeble promises of spending cuts “to be phased in,” mostly between 2017 and 2021, when the majority of those making such promises may not even remain in office.

“In the end, an agreement proved impossible not because Republicans were unwilling to compromise, but because Democrats would not accept any proposal that did not expand the size and scope of government or punish job creators,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

So now we’re down to the third and last magic bean:

Will even the modest promised “mandatory spending cuts” (remember, they’re supposed to “phase in over a decade”) kick in as threatened, 13 months from now?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., promptly said he wouldn’t reverse the cuts. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said that he would feel “morally bound” to honor the cuts. President Barack Obama said he would veto any bill to undo the cuts, saying there would be “no easy off ramps.”

Which sounds a lot like a coach or administrator at scandal-plagued Penn State saying he sees no reason to resign, these days.

In fact, those “mandatory spending cuts” can be reversed by this or any future Congress at any time, by simple majority vote. Members wouldn’t even have to announce they were doing so. They could simply, incrementally approve spending bills that fail to incorporate even such modest “cuts,” while making noises about “still being committed to bigger savings and revenue enhancements down the road.”

In fact, in the supercommittee’s “failure,” Americans may have dodged more bullets than they realize.

As part of the supercommittee’s negotiations, it’s reported members were tinkering with a plan to claim some “savings” from the current $6 billion in direct federal support payments to farmers — which would have promptly been replaced by expanding a SEPARATE $5 billion boondoggle, this one called “crop insurance.”

The good news is the secret farm deal seems to have died with the supercommittee. Farm state congresstitutes will now have to go back to spinning their schemes in a slightly less secret setting.

For heaven’s sake. If anyone in Washington want to trim spending and reduce the deficit, ending all farm supports, subsidies, and protectionist tariffs — and closing the Agriculture Department, for good measure — would qualify as a good start. Our current, wasteful, market-perverting farm policies were established to help cushion the loss when European farmlands going back into production caused prices for U.S. grains to fall — in 1920.

Yet, under the guise of deficit reduction, this gang was working on a multi-billion-dolllar extension of FARM HANDOUTS?

One Comment to “Let us count the magic beans”

  1. chris Says:

    Heck, let’s pretend all 3 magic beans actually succeeded:

    1) Balanced Budget Amendment – As you noted, the Democrats should’ve loved it – it would’ve been the perfect make believe solution to deficits.

    2) The “supercommittee” – Even if that “succeeded” at it’s claimed $1.2 trillion cut, the fact is that the cut was proposed for a 10 year “phase in”, which means only $120 billion a year. Even if it were twice as big, that wouldn’t be half of what’s needed to actually stop the bleeding.

    3) Even if the “mandatory spending cuts” kick in, those are way too small to fix theings either, even if taxes were raised to 85% of everything on everyone.