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View from the Hill Blog: Super Committee’s Failure Could Be America’s Victory

By Grace Boatright, View from the Hill National Grange Legislative Blog (12/9/11)

  DECEMBER 9, 2011 --

The Not-So-Super Committee’s failure, anticipated though it was, will inevitably have major ramifications on just about every group and industry that has been waiting patiently to learn of the Committee’s proposals. Well, the Committee’s failure may very well be the best thing that could have happened. Erik Carter of Forbes Magazine might have said it best; “The most important lesson of all this has nothing to do with what may come out of it. Rather, the whole process is an example of what not to do.” What not to do is bypass our constitutional requirement that legislation begin with our democratically-elected representatives in the body to which they were elected- rather than a 12-member committee assigned to fix a problem that 535 elected members of Congress collectively could not. 

Putting aside the excuses and pointing fingers, the failure came down to two facts: Democrats refuse to accept any cuts to entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, and Republicans refuse to raise taxes on anyone. Not helping negotiations, both sides now have their own team of cheerleaders; Democrats with the Occupy Wall Street Movement and conservatives with the Tea Party. Yet either way, the results of this stalemate are vast, and most of them probably won’t be fully recognized for years. In the meantime we can deal with the immediate budget deadline.

The markets are obviously paying attention as the Dow dropped 250 that Monday, which doesn’t help the economy, consumer sentiment, or U.S. reputation in this global economy. The continuing resolution that is keeping the government running expires on December 16th, and if Congress can’t extend it or come up with something new to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, the American public might get a government shutdown from Santa this year. The Committee’s charge was supposed to be cutting $1.2 trillion from the deficit over the next 10 years. Instead, October 1, 2012 will see $1.2 trillion across-the-board spending cuts, effecting just about every administration, department, or other area of government. Defense spending will probably see the biggest cut, with a proposed slashing of $450 billion. That reduction in funds will leave United States ground forces at their lowest levels since 1940. In this age of terror and revolution in the Middle East, slashing funds for those who protect us while we sleep probably isn’t the smartest idea.

The payroll tax cuts are set to expire in less than a month (good thing everybody’s unemployed huh), along with the extension of unemployment insurance benefits. Some Republicans have proposed for a reforming of the unemployment benefit system, but with a hundred other things on Congress’ plate, God knows if that will happen. In addition, doctors receiving Medicare payments are about to be hit with a 25% cut to their reimbursement payments (so much for the fair and rational nature of ObamaCare). The Alternative Minimum Tax will also need to be addressed so middle class taxpayers aren’t absorbed by it, and the list of tax breaks to be extended, abolished, or patched up goes on.

As for agriculture, the Super Committee’s failure will mostly manifest itself in the 2012 Farm Bill. Initially, the structure of federal farm programs were to be included in the Super Committee’s cost cutting duties, so now we’re back to where we started. Pro-ag negotiators at the state level are trying to implement a new “shallow-loss” insurance program to help protect growers from financial losses due to weather or price fluctuations in the market, virtually doing away with the current federal payments institution. Without knowing the definite funds they will have to work with, it will be hard to implement anything to help America’s farmers and ranchers right now. We’ll have to wait and see how things progress in 2012.

In the end, the Super Committee proved what most all of us knew all along: if 535 people couldn’t come up with a practical solution for our nation’s debt crisis, what were the odds that 12 people were going to fix the problem? At the beginning of this article, I said that their failure was probably for the best, and I meant it. Having 12 people decide the fate of America’s economy and prosperity is about as un-American as anything we’ve seen yet. The Super Committee failed to reach an agreement on how to cut $1.2 trillion from the deficit, but God only knows what they would have come up with if they had devised a solution. That solution, in theory, would only have represented the populations of no more than 12 states. Shouldn’t the other 38 get a say as well? I believe so, and I think most of the country would agree with me. We might be back to square one, but at least my representatives and yours are all in that square together.

-Grace Boatright 
National Grange Programs Assistant

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