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Congress: Where Failure is Always an Option

Chart courtesy of the office of Senator Michael Bennet


Already less popular than Venezuelan dictator, Hugo Chavez, BP during the oil spill, Nixon during Watergate, lawyers, the IRS and Paris Hilton, Congress seems intent on finding a new bottom in the hearts of the public. The so-called congressional Super Committee’s failure to find even modest savings and revenues to address the federal deficit is just one more example why people seem to really despise Congress.

There is plenty of blame to go around on both sides and this is not an opinion forged out of a need to sound non-partisan. The combination of cowardice and partisanship is very, very powerful and both Democrats and Republicans are proving that, in this Congress, playing politics trumps national interest every time.

Democrats have not been serious about addressing the cause of much of our deficit-spending- entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. Why? Because the choices are painful and politically unpopular. Republicans, to their credit, finally gave in a tiny little bit and for the first time in recent memory, agreed to a modest rise in tax revenues but then sabotaged the whole thing by demanding that the Bush tax cuts not be allowed to expire at the end of the year- without identifying ways to pay for them.

With this failure, Congress has now opened the door to more failures over the next couple of months. Extended unemployment benefits may not happen. Keeping payroll tax cuts going into next year are, inexplicably, at risk.

Worst of all, Congress is expected to debate over the weeks ahead, whether to water down, delay or eliminate the triggered cuts that were supposed to take place if the Super Committee failed to do its job. The idea was that these cuts, many of them amounting to deep slashes in Pentagon spending, would surely pressure lawmakers into making a deficit deal. After all, who wants to be blamed for weakening America’s military?

If they try to weasel out of those triggered cuts, you can kiss even our AA+ S&P rating goodbye.

Clearly, no one cares up there on Capitol Hill. They don’t care if America is downgraded by credit agencies. They don’t care about endangering national defense. They don’t care about the unemployed. They don’t really care about reducing deficits. They give all the above considerable lip service- but the results tell the real story about the priorities of our politicians. They care about only two things; immediate political survival and getting on the gravy train when they leave Congress so they can continue to enrich themselves.

Representatives from both sides took to the Sunday talking-head shows to blame each other and finger point. No last-minute emergency negotiations. No burning the midnight oil. No college try. Nothing.

They are, however, working on the statement expected today- describing their failure to reach a deal. Maybe they won’t find a way to agree on that either.

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