Super Committee Follies

Imagine a home is on fire.

Now imagine the inhabitants of that home arguing among themselves about how to put out the conflagration, or even if they should do so. As the flames draw near, the ceiling nears collapse, the smoke chokes their lungs, they finally agree to try and agree to procure a Dixie Cup full of water to fight the fire, and they give themselves a deadline to do it.

If you think this type of comical dithering in the face of mortal danger would be insane, you’d be right. If you think it sounds a lot like what Congress is doing with its extra-constitutional “Super committee,” a delegation of 12 House and Senate members (never has that word been more accurate) charged with finding some way to cut the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over ten years, you’d also be right.

If the super committee cannot agree on cuts by their November 23 deadline, well, CNN sums up the possible consequences: “A failure to pass any agreement would result in $1.2 trillion in automatic across-the-board spending cuts starting in 2013, evenly divided between defense and non-defense spending.”

Proposing $1.2 trillion in cuts over 10 years as our national debt tops $15 trillion is a joke. Failing to even agree on that (which at this point looks quite likely) is a sick joke. What the super committee is having a hard time agreeing to would amount to less than a Dixie Cup full of water to fight our economic fire — it would be a thimbleful, if that. As Alexis Simendinger wryly notes in Real Clear Politics:

The country’s economic situation in the near term remains precarious even if Congress does what the law says it must — reduce deficits over 10 years by at least $1.2 trillion. And it would worsen if the super committee fails to reach agreement next week. If that happens, the political stalemate would sink market confidence, potentially weaken ratings of U.S. debt, and further rattle public confidence in government.

To say the least. If your house burns down, assuming you survive, you can move into another house or rebuild the old one. When your economy burns down, where do you go?

You can replace a house; how do you replace a republic?