Scottish poet Robert Burns penned a short work titled “To a Mouse” that contains a classic quote that is as relevant today as the day he wrote it in November 1785. The quote, “The best laid schemes of Mice and Men often go awry, and leave us nothing but grief and pain” may seem apropos to the impending failure of the super committee tasked with reducing the deficit by $1.2 trillion, but for Republicans in Congress, the committee’s failure to reach an agreement was a smashing victory and part of their plan all along.
Although there is a sense of failure to reduce the deficit over ten years, Republicans clearly achieved their goal of sabotaging economic growth during the next year as well as avoiding revenue increases as a balanced approach to cutting the deficit. The real catastrophe is failing to extend unemployment insurance benefits and the payroll tax holiday that are necessary to maintain growth by adding 1-2 percentage points to economic growth through next year. Republicans claim that deficit reduction is a high priority, but their offer relied heavily on spending cuts and minute revenue increases. House Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman said, “The fact that it was rejected makes it clear that Washington Democrats won’t cut a dime in government spending without job-killing tax hikes.” Translation: a balanced approach is not acceptable.
The Republicans offered a paltry $3 billion in tax revenue for owners of corporate jets, but they also included a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans from 35% down to 28%. However, most wealthy Americans never pay 35% because of loopholes in the tax code and, on average, the wealthy only pay 17% of their income in taxes. Democrats complained that the Republican plan was too dependent on spending cuts and Senator John Kerry said “we’re really having a hard time bringing our colleagues to what is fair, what is balanced.” Republicans made sure the committee would fail by holding firm to cuts to popular programs such as Social Security, that has no impact on the federal deficit, and Medicare as well as demanding an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy. John Kyl (R-Ariz) said “Our Democratic friends were never able to do the entitlement reforms. They weren’t going to do anything without raising taxes.”
The Republicans should have just told the American people at the outset of negotiations there was never going to be a deal unless Democrats on the committee agreed to cut $1.2 trillion in social programs, reduce and extend Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy, and permanently end unemployment benefits for out of work Americans. Kerry reiterated that Democrats “didn’t come here to do another tax cut to the wealthiest people while we’re asking fixed-income seniors to ante up more, people on Medicaid who are poor to ante up more.” The committee’s failure guarantees there will be no tax increase on the wealthy even though the Bush-era cuts are due to expire at the end of 2012 just in time for a new round of negotiations to prevent a huge cut to defense spending. Republicans are already considering ways to reconfigure the automatic Pentagon cuts that were a punitive incentive to reach a deal before the November 23rd deadline even though the risk of financial rating agencies downgrading the country’s credit rating is a near certainty unless there are significant cuts to the deficit. Republicans were solely responsible for S&P downgrading the nation’s credit rating this past summer for not using a balanced approach and they are going to bear the responsibility again for taking the same lopsided approach. Everything is going according to their plan of sabotaging the economy to cause more suffering to Americans.
In public, Republicans will blame the super committee’s failure on Democrats, but in private they will celebrate their victory at preserving the wealthy’s tax cuts, ending unemployment benefit extensions, and eliminating the payroll tax holiday. Their victory is another failure for Americans who have suffered enough from vindictive Republicans who use the guise of deficit reduction to inflict more pain.
The deficit is a problem over the long term, but economic growth now is crucial to maintain a semblance of economic progress. The committee could have helped the economy and the American people if, as planned, they had extended the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits as economic stimulus, but Republicans like Senator Jeff Sessions said “he was uneasy about extending the payroll tax holiday, calling the national debt a greater threat to us than the weak economy.” However, if the national debt is such a threat, why did Republicans insist on extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy without funding them? Deficit reduction was never in the Republican plans unless all the sacrifice came from 98% of Americans who can ill-afford more job-killing cuts, and even then, more tax cuts for the wealthy will exceed spending cuts increasing the deficit.
The Republican victory ensures the economy will stay weak, more Americans will slip below the poverty level, and the deficit will continue to grow because Republicans must preserve the wealthy’s tax cuts. It is true the super committee has failed, but it has failed the American people which was the Republican’s plan from the outset. It is worth noting that at the start of negotiations Republicans said any tax increases were off the table, but cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and every other social program except defense was on the chopping block. The Republican Party won and the American people lost. However, the people have overwhelmingly favored raising taxes on the wealthy and it is ill-advised for Republicans to continue ignoring the will of the people; especially when Americans are losing their homes and jobs, and now because of Republicans’ obduracy, they are losing unemployment benefits and payroll tax cuts.
Republicans may as well celebrate their victory now because as people become destitute and desperate, they will remember which party was responsible for damaging the economy to enrich the wealthy. The super committee may have failed, but Republicans succeeded and won this round as they planned from the start. However, Americans will not support another Republican victory when it only benefits 1% of the wealthiest Americans, and based on the mood of the people, it may well be the last victory Republicans have to celebrate.
Image: The Shutt Chute