The Super Committee gets to work finding deep savings at the same time the economy needs a boost that government spending could provide.
They begin negotiations while John Boehner and his crew argue that taxes are "off the table" and Democrats hear their constituents' concern that any changes in Medicare are a slippery slope.
Then there's another deficit they need to face: The severe deficit of faith the American public has in its representative legislature as seen in the headline: "Approval of Congress Matches Record Low."
It's not looking so super on that committee anymore.
1. Mission Accomplished!
One might argue that if both sides show a little willingness to buck partisan conventions and negotiate, it would be good for both the budget and approval deficits (I can imagine my It's A Free Country colleague Solomon Kleinsmith nodding in approval). But maybe there are places that Dems and the GOP can agree beyond trading away their core values.
In the Republican debate last week, the candidates sounded downright peacenick-ish in their agreement that it is time for our overseas misadventures to come to an end. President Obama has been conducting the draw-down at a pace slower than his own base wanted. Now would be a great time for Democrats and Republicans to stop bickering over whose war it is and agree that it can be everyone's peace—and everyone's savings.
2. Life Panels?
The GOP contenders also made the case that when public funds are paying for healthcare, nobody balances financial factors into their healthcare decisions. Democrats have made a similar argument—not with the goal of getting government out of healthcare, but with an eye toward reducing costs.
If the two sides could hold off shouting "death panels" and "let them die" for a minute, they might come up with a better idea: "Life Panels", which study best practices, reward the hospitals and clinics that are doing well, and promote these findings widely in ways that conserve costs all around. Assuming we don't go Ron Paul's route to zero public expenditures on healthcare, even small improvements will go a long way for the health of the public and the public's coffers.
3. GE Needs to Pay Taxes.
Finally, both Left and Right can agree on this: GE needs to pay more taxes. When it was revealed that the behemoth corporation—whose chief, in a not-insignificant coincidence, is one of the president's top economic advisers—got away scot-free on tax day, progressive anti-corporate crusaders cried out. One faux press release imagined the unlikely world in which GE, for the good of the country, donated back its tax refund.
Turns out that the left-leaning US Uncut and the right-wing stalwart Newt Gingrich might dream of the same world. The former House Speaker took GE to task in this week's debate. His attacks may have more to do with softening the president's economic team, but regardless of the motive, there's an opportunity: If you close the GE loopholes, you win broad support—and you close many other tax loopholes in the process.
Declaring "mission accomplished," rewarding life-saving and cost-effective medical practices, and making GE pay its fair share are three areas that give both sides political wins and give the Super Committee a great start on their impossible task. But even these steps will already exceed expectations and will be popular with more than the 12% of the population that thinks Congress is currently doing a heckuva job.
Justin Krebs is a political organizer and writer based in New York City. He is the founder of Living Liberally, a nationwide network of 250 local clubs that create social events around progressive politics, and author of "538 Ways to Live, Work and Play Like a Liberal."