TENNESSEAN OP-ED: 'SUPER-COMMITTEE' ISN'T BEST HOPE; AMERICANS ARE
Jim Cooper writes an op-ed in The Tennessean about the challenges facing the “super-committee” and what you can do to help end the stalemate in Washington.
By U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper
August 14, 2011
Don’t expect the new congressional “super-committee” to suddenly act like superheroes and save the American economy. The 12 Democrats and Republicans on the committee don’t need spandex; they need courage.
Just creating a committee is a sign of weakness; committees delay action. America’s debt problems are mounting so rapidly that our fiscal gap increases by roughly $14 billion every day we wait. That’s $164,000 a second. That’s why Congress should go back to work immediately instead of taking August off. Millions of Americans need jobs; Congress should be doing its job.
Congress already has plenty of committees. The most notable, the Bowles-Simpson Commission, finished its work seven months ago. That committee won 60 percent bipartisan approval but could not get a congressional vote. Its report remains the best bipartisan blueprint for reform. Congress could vote on its proposals at any time.
Will one or more of the six hard-core Democrats or six hard-core Republicans on the super-committee vote against their party? Doubtful. They are afraid of losing their leadership position in Congress and perhaps their next election. They were selected for their stubbornness, making stalemate the most likely outcome.
If the super-committee ties 6-6, then automatic, across-the-board cuts will occur, starting in 2013. Some industries such as agriculture prefer this outcome, because it could protect them from deeper cuts. Other industries such as defense are angry with blanket cuts, because we are in the middle of multiple wars.
Workable plan must boost revenue, reform entitlements
Republicans are afraid that voting for any tax increase will lose the next election. Democrats fear that any reduction in Social Security or Medicare will terminate their careers. These fears will probably cripple the super-committee. Yet, no meaningful deficit reduction can be achieved without revenue and entitlement reform.
Whether the super-committee deadlocks or not, it was only tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years. Many experts think that more deficit reduction is required, such as the $4 trillion recommended by Bowles-Simpson. During today’s high unemployment and weak economy, these cuts should be back-loaded so that we do not jeopardize the fragile recovery.
I am praying that at least seven members of the super-committee will rise to the challenge and quickly recommend a larger package of deficit reductions than the law requires, $4 trillion or more. To do that, Congress must be willing to take on special interests, political parties and extreme partisans back home.
What can you do to ease the stalemate? Study proposals like the Bowles-Simpson Commission. Get beyond the partisan talking points, and know what solutions you prefer. Think for yourself, of course, but also for your community and nation.
Talk to your neighbors and elected officials. Let them know what cuts you would like to see made. Don’t just advocate cutting someone else; tell us how your favorite programs can be reduced or eliminated. Almost everyone in modern America is subsidized in some way. Also, tell us what taxes could be increased.
This is not a time for selfishness. We live in the greatest nation in the world, because our forbears made brave decisions. They did not take the easy road. They made the tough decisions that made America strong.
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, a Democrat, represents Tennessee’s Fifth Congressional District.