Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Did the Super Committee Really Fail?

Anyone who actually thought the Super Committee would succeed is a fool. I felt sorry for all 12 of those folks the minute they were named. They were nothing but the scapegoats sent to battle by their respective parties. A group of fully informed Uriahs. We were told they were empowered to make change. They were told that failure would not simply be failure to congress, but failure to country. This was their act of patriotism. Then they were hamstrung by the same ideological chains of party affiliation that have created dangerous deadlock in Washington in growing degrees over the last 20 years.

I’m no fan of the Occupy movement. To me it is a colossal waste of time and energy. How can a movement move with no direction? If it is not meant to move then what is it meant to be? It may as well be the “I’m mad” movement. I’d get that. A lot of people are mad. The “failure” of the super committee makes me mad too, but I’m not mad at them. Is it the bank’s fault? No. Is it “wall street’s” fault? No. Is it big business’s fault? No. Is it democrats’ fault? Maybe. Is it republicans’ fault? Maybe. Is the middle class subjected to an unfair burden? Absolutely. Do we need to do more for the working poor? No question about it.

The real challenge we are seeing all around us is actually a failure of leadership. Elected leaders are so afraid of their various empowering constituencies that they are unable to do what they know to be right. Business leaders have the same challenge. In a world with a 24 hour news feed and quarterly stock reports those who run big businesses are slave to immediacy. Anyone who steps up and calls for the kind of compromise necessary to create real change is drawn and quartered. In a world that refuses to listen reason dies. A western business leader who decides to invest in future growth risks termination when the quarterly reports show diminished profitability. A political leader who calls for compromise is called soft by the party leaders who fund television commercials and re-election campaigns.

The super committee was doomed from the start. It was an extraordinary diversion, cooked up by the president on one side and congressional leaders on the other. It’s sole purpose was to kick the can down the road. Let’s not decide now... We can decide then. It won’t be our fault it will be theirs. Only it’s not their fault. If I’d gotten the call to be on that committee I would have scheduled an immediate amputation and taken medical leave. Listen to the party leaders now... Want to know whose fault it really is? It is the leaders’ fault and it is our fault for funding institutions that demand that ideologies are more important than practicalities. Only we don’t really want to accept that.

If we go back and listen to the airwaves during the budget crisis that spawned the super committee we will hear exactly the same comments we are hearing today. “Less spending” on one side and “higher taxes” on the other. In reality they are both right, and interestingly, they both know they are right. We have to find ways to cut spending at all levels in government and if we want all of the programs that we have been so happy to have, then we need to be prepared to belly up and pay for them. The challenge for the ideologically blind is that that sounds r-e-a-s-o-n-a-b-l-e. Reason is scary.

I’m in the hated 1%. My family makes more than $250,000 per year. So are a lot of my friends. I’d hate to lose my write-offs for charitable contributions and for my Mortgage. Before I give up all that money I want to know that the money I’m paying for taxes is being appropriately spent. The fact is that I may not ever know if that is true. At the very least I want to know that the folks charged with spending it treat that privilege with honor. Right now I’m not sure it is. Perhaps I should start a movement. We’ll call it the “Shut Up and Do Your Jobs” movement. That has the handy acronym of SUADYG. Rhymes with sewage. That’s about right.