Deficit super committee fails: Who's to blame?
The members of the super committee tasked with cutting $1.2 trillion from federal budgets announced that it failed to reach a deal. Polls and newspapers chime in on why that happened.
No deal on how to cut federal deficits. That's the outcome as weeks of¬†negotiating brought a so-called super committee of 12 lawmakers down¬†to its practical deadline.
For now at least, it's over except the shouting over who's to blame.
Each of the two major political parties, not surprisingly, says the¬†other is at fault. But early opinion polls suggest that, in the eyes¬†of the voting public, the criticism may stick to the Republicans more than it does the Democrats.
Although the committee's deadline for handing a plan to the full¬†Congress was Wednesday, Nov. 23, the panel also was supposed to make¬†any plan public 48 hours ahead of its vote. So Monday was its¬†effective deadline.
One sign of disappointment outside the Washington Beltway: Stock¬†prices fell sharply Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average¬†losing more than 2 percent as the super committee and worries¬†about fiscal policies in Europe weighed on investors.
The broader gauge of public opinion, so far, comes in response to¬†hypothetical questions about a super committee failure.
In a CNN/Opinion Research poll conducted Nov. 11-13, some 42 percent¬†of Americans said that Republicans would be "more responsible" than¬†Democrats if the committee fails to present a deficit-reduction plan.¬†Thirty-two percent said Democrats would be "more responsible," and 19¬†percent said both parties would share blame.
Similarly, a recent McClatchy/Marist poll found 39 percent would blame¬†congressional Republicans, 27 percent would blame Democrats, and 23¬†percent would blame both.
Why the extra blame on Republicans? The polls don't ask respondents¬†their rationale, but it appears that positions on taxes hold the key.¬†Most Americans agree, at least in general terms, with the Democratic¬†push to get high-income Americans to pay more in taxes. Although¬†Republicans on the super committee opened the door to the possibility¬†of more tax revenue, many Americans don't believe the GOP has shown¬†enough flexibility on the issue.
"For the past two decades, Republicans have obstructed just about¬†every serious effort to get control of the federal budget by opposing¬†tax increases, even in packages with major spending cuts," said a¬†recent editorial in USA Today.
The editorial praised committee member Sen. Pat Toomey (R) of¬†Pennsylvania for braving criticism from his own party, and putting¬†forth a proposal that raised new tax revenues. But it argued that the¬†offer of some $300 billion in new tax revenue over 10 years didn't go¬†far enough.
Put in context: The committee's mandate from Congress is to find $1.2¬†trillion or more in deficit reduction over that period. And many¬†finance experts have issued call¬†for a bigger bargain that would total some $4 trillion in¬†deficit reduction, through spending cuts and perhaps $1 trillion in¬†tax-revenue increases.
Even hitting the bigger target would leave the US running deficits,¬†and probably struggling to find further cuts as baby boomer¬†retirements add to the cost of health-care entitlements in years¬†ahead.
Some columnists and bloggers argue that¬†Republicans, influenced by tea¬†party voters and antitax lobbyist Grover Norquist,¬†even sought to make the super committee a¬†venue for bestowing new tax cuts on the America's wealthy.
"The primary sticking point was over whether the rich should see their¬†contribution to deficit reduction increase or decrease," Washington¬†Post blogger Greg Sargent wrote Monday.
One liberal research group analyzing the Toomey plan found that his¬†idea of a top tax bracket of 28 percent (while eliminating many¬†deductions), would shift the tax burden increasingly onto middle-class¬†households. The plan would be a tax cut for high-income people,¬†locking in rates lower than those in the Bush tax cuts that are set to¬†expire at the end of 2012, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities¬†says.
Other columnists, however, argue that blame is an equal-opportunity¬†game, calling out Democrats for failing to get serious about reforming¬†entitlements such as Medicare to lower their fast-rising costs.
A number of big-city newspapers across the country have taken a¬†centrist view, calling on both parties to compromise.
"Any serious blueprint to reduce the national debt ‚Äď now $15 trillion¬†‚Äď requires both more revenue and brakes on automatic spending," the¬†Cleveland Plain-Dealer said in a recent editorial.
After reviewing the state of play, a Baltimore Sun editorial said:¬†"The next step? Split the differences down the middle and end up with¬†a $1.6 billion package that is 65 percent based on spending cuts and¬†35 percent¬†on tax increases ‚Äď or at least something in that neighborhood."