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Opinion: Debt Supercommittee Has a Chance to Correct Years of Bad Policy. Here's How:

Monday, September 26, 2011 - 09:14 AM

U.S. President Barack Obama host Congressional leaders for a meeting in the Cabinet Room at the White House July 14, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/Getty)

The leaders of three organizations that are among the most consistent defenders of fiscal sanity got together on Wednesday to try and build some more attention for the idea that the Supercommittee shouldn't just try and shoot for its bare minimum.

The Concord Coalition, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and the Bipartisan Policy Center are all saying that the Supercommittee should "Go Big", but they added that they should also "Go Long" and "Go Smart".

I imagine the reaction of most people reading that last sentence is very similar to mine, even if we might come to different conclusions as to the solutions. Shortsighted action on fiscal issues has been standard practice for both the Democratic and Republican parties for over a generation, and it is directly responsible for the fiscal train wreck we're now dealing with.

It's a very similar situation to the shortsighted actions that led to the recession, where financial companies glutted on short-term profits for years, while setting the stage for economic collapse down the line.

While all of this is true, at best we are collectively accomplices in both the two major parties' squandering of our nation's treasure, as well as the financial industry's squandering of the same. We need to learn from those mistakes, but right now the more pressing problem is how we're going to not let these very avoidable disasters hinder economic growth for years to come.

Thomas Friedman touched on this in one of his latest columns at the New York Times:

It becomes clearer every week that our country faces a big choice: We can either have a hard decade or a bad century. We can either roll up our sleeves and do what’s needed to overcome our post-cold war excesses and adapt to the demands of the 21st century or we can just keep limping into the future.
Given those stark choices, one would hope that our politicians would rise to the challenge by putting forth fair and credible recovery proposals that match the scale of our debt problem and contain the three elements that any serious plan must have: spending cuts, increases in revenues and investments in the sources of our strength.
But that, alas, is not what we’re getting, which is why there remains an opening for an independent Third Party candidate in the 2012 campaign.

Friedman is exaggerating, I think, in his assessment that mediocre progress now will sink this entire century, but his overarching point is on the money. If we don't "Go Big", we will merely do what the last two generations have done to us, and make them pay for our unwillingness to live within our means.

If we don't "Go Long", and spend more in the short term, but pay for it with cuts and revenue increases that phase in later, we threaten to stall whatever economic growth we may have going. And if we don't "Go Smart", we are likely to cut in places that may not have as much political clout, but are important for long term, sustainable, economic growth.

The stonewalling that some Democrats are spinning up just makes it more likely that entitlement programs will have to make far deeper cuts down the line, and the stonwalling the Republicans are doing over taxes just makes it more likely that we'll have to raise taxes even more when the interest payments on the debt balloon and take over even more of the federal budget in coming years.

Instead of learning from the short sighted mistakes of the last generation, they're doubling down on them, and in the process rolling the dice on our country's economic future.

Solomon Kleinsmith is a former nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates.

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Comments [1]

Congress has already figured out several ways to effectively neuter the committee's proposal, whatever it may be.

When they set up a situation in which they would be held accountable for either accepting the recommendations or, through rejecting them, causing across-the-board cuts to take place, they had several escape hatches in mind.

They occupy themselves these days by oiling the hatch hinges as they wait for December's document.

Sep. 26 2011 02:22 PM

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