Posted by: SWL | November 23, 2011

Surprise! No Agreement on Debt Reduction for Super Committee

The Joint Select Committee for Debt Reduction (aka the “Super Committee”) on Monday made a show of meeting briefly, then announcing that the 12 members could not reach agreement on a mandatory $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction. Is anyone surprised by this news? This was the first time the committee had met since November 1! How can they come up with any agreement if they don’t meet to discuss possibilities?

Several of the Super Committee members had the time to appear on various news shows the previous week, so apparently it was not a matter of their other Congressional duties interfering. Senator John Kerry has been especially vocal, even calling CNN’s “Erin Burnett Outfront” Monday evening to promote his side of the story. He has spent all his on-air time blaming the Republicans and touting Democratic plans and offers that no one has heard about until now.

Republicans and Democrats have fundamentally different views on the role of government, which influence what each side thinks is the best way to reach a smaller federal debt. But surely they should have been able to compromise in a few areas for the good of the country. After all, this was only $1.2 trillion over the course of 10 years – just $120 billion a year. Republican committee member Senator Pat Toomey had proposed eliminating some tax deductions that primarily benefited the richest Americans. That was a start. Democrats should have put more focus on spending cuts. We cannot cut the deficit significantly only by raising revenue.

The Bowles-Simpson Debt Commission spent far more time examining the debt issue than the Super Committee. The Debt Commission report listed many areas and methods to cut the deficit. At a minimum, the Super Committee could have chosen enough items from the report to equal $1.2 trillion.

I find it hypocritical when anyone in Congress talks about rich Americans “giving back” by “paying their fair share”. The tax bills for members of Congress are calculated under an entirely different tax code from ordinary Americans. Any changes to the regular tax code will not affect them.

Disclosure forms for members of Congress only require them to disclose the range into which their assets fall, so an exact net worth cannot be calculated. But by averaging the low and high ends of the ranges of assets and liabilities, The Center for Responsive Politics has calculated an average net worth for each Congressman and Senator. Almost half of the members of Congress have an estimated net worth of over one million dollars. The top nine wealthiest members of Congress are worth an average of $100 million or more. Six of those nine are Democrats. Sen. Kerry, who has recently been the most outspoken about rich Americans paying more taxes, is the fourth wealthiest in Congress (minimum $181 million) – and will not pay a penny more himself if Democrats succeed in raising general tax rates.

Check the link above and find out how much your Congressional representatives are worth. Do you think they can understand the financial realities you deal with every day?

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