The spectacle of Democrats and Republicans arguing about who is to "blame" for the "failure" of the "Supercommittee" is certainly tempting for many partisans. But any progressive who participates in the spectacle risks attacking their own interests to the degree that they promote the implicit assumption that the public interest would have been better served if the Super Committee had reached a deal.
We shouldn't be arguing about who is to "blame" for this development. We should be arguing about who should be awarded credit for this best-plausible-outcome.
We should, to borrow a phrase from Monty Python, be dancing on the Super Committee's grave, singing Halleluyah.
Who should get the Academy Award? The AFL-CIO? The Strengthen Social Security Campaign? The Tea Party? All of the above?
Indeed, it was a de facto coalition between the AFL-CIO and its friends and the Tea Party and its friends which again defeated the cruel plan of the extreme center to trade Social Security cuts and raising the Medicare retirement age for a relatively meaningless increase on the tax rates paid by rich people.
Why meaningless? Because tax rates raised today can easily be lowered in the future. Cutting Social Security benefits by changing the cost-of-living formula and raising the Medicare retirement age are forever.
From the point of view of the national aspirations of the indigenous people of the United States, what was the right price to charge for Manhattan Island? Surely the answer is: there was no right price. Cash is ephemeral. Control of territory could be forever.
Similarly, there is no amount of increasing taxes on rich people that can compensate low-income workers for cutting their Social Security benefits and taking away their access to Medicare.
Press Release: Just Foreign Policy Responds to Super Committee "Failure": “We Now Have a Historic Opportunity to Cut Military Spending”
Just Foreign Policy issued a press release earlier today in response to the Congressional "Super" Committee's failure to come to an agreement to reduce government spending by $1.2 trillion over the next ten years. You may read the press release here.
After ten years of war, now is a perfect time to act to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Friends Committee on National Legislation has set up a toll-free number for us to call Congress: 1-877-429-0678. A Congressional "Supercommittee" is charged with coming up with $1.5 trillion in reduced debt over ten years, and the wars and the bloated Pentagon budget dangle before the Supercommittee like overripe fruit.
So what else is new, you may say. The Pentagon wants to stay everywhere forever.
Ordinarily, I think of myself as a card-carrying liberal. But lately, I'm getting the feeling that Liberal America had a meeting to decide on our current priorities and peace advocates weren't invited. I open my email and it's full of rallying cries about the urgency of taxing the rich. When was it decided that taxing the rich was the marquee demand of Liberal America at this juncture? Were peace advocates invited to this meeting? I see no evidence that we were.
In a different political juncture, I would be happy to march behind the banner of taxing the rich. But at this political juncture, when the war budget is half of federal discretionary spending, and when because of the Budget Control Act and the Supercommittee, we have a historic opportunity to cut the war budget - a much better prospect, at present, than our prospects for raising tax rates on rich people - I ain't marching for this dogwhistle anymore.
Suppose there were a massive government program to dump truckloads of dioxin in Lake Michigan. And suppose that - in addition to the direct effects of poisoning a major source of drinking water - this program were tremendously expensive in blood and treasure. Suppose that since October 7, 2001, more than five thousand American workers had been killed carrying out the Lake Michigan-poisoning project, with tens of thousands of American workers counted as wounded, and the real toll of wounded American workers many times higher. And suppose that the budgeted cost so far of the massive government program to dump poison in Lake Michigan were over a trillion dollars so far, with the real financial cost to society, when you count things like the future health costs of the poisoned American workers, much higher.
Would the marquee demand of Liberal America be to make Warren Buffett pay his fair share for the Lake Michigan-poisoning program? Or would the marquee demand of Liberal America be to stop dumping poison in Lake Michigan?
On October 7, 2011, the United States will have been at war for ten years.
Let's mark the occasion by making a national clamor for peace so loud that Congress, the President, and big media will have to pay attention.
October 7 happens to fall on a Friday this year. If you get to choose, Friday is not necessarily the most strategic day to make a national clamor for peace, because 1) Congress will likely not be in session 2) Friday is, in general, a crummy day to try to get media attention and 3) even if these two things weren't true or relevant, Friday is not a great day to try to hold public attention. People's thoughts are turning to the weekend, and then the weekend erases the chalkboard.
Moreover, the press has to cover the anniversary of the war, but these stories are going to be largely written and produced before Friday. The default media narrative will be: America has lost interest in the wars, because of the economy and unemployment, because "the wars are already winding down," or some other story that journalists or editors will make up. We have to beat this default media narrative. To beat it, we need to get in front of it.
So let's mark the occasion on Thursday, October 6. Let's have a national, "ecumenical" day of action for peace: to end the wars and cut the military budget.
By Thanksgiving, the Congressional "Super Committee" is supposed to come up with $1.2 trillion in debt reduction over the next ten years. The Super Committee can include anything it wants in its package - short-term economic stimulus (like extending unemployment benefits and the payroll tax holiday), revenue increases from curtailing tax breaks, cuts in military or domestic spending, subject only to two constraints. To avoid automatic cuts, the package has to add to $1.2 trillion in debt reduction over ten years. Also, to avoid automatic cuts, the package has to pass both houses of Congress in December, so the package has to have the property that it can pass the House and Senate.
A plausible and reasonable option would be to curtail future spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, consistent with keeping existing agreements and commitments to withdraw our troops, rather than replacing these agreements and commitments with agreements to establish permanent military garrisons in Iraq and Afghanistan. Under plausible and moderate assumptions, this would save at least $200 billion over ten years, 1/6 of the Super Committee's debt reduction goal.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey is circulating the following Dear Colleague and Sign-On letter to the Super Committee urging them to end funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the debt deal.
Urge your representatives to sign the Woolsey letter here.
Letter to Super Committee: $1.8 Trillion in Savings
August 12, 2011
As the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also referred to as the “Super Committee,” begins its work, we must remind its members of the overwhelming costs due to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I urge you to join me in cosigning the letter below to the Co-Chairs and members of the Select Committee noting the $1.8 trillion that could be saved by ending the wars. To cosign or for additional information, please contact me or Jennifer Goedke (5-5161) on my staff.
Member of Congress
September 9, 2011
The Honorable Patty Murray
The Honorable Jeb Hensarling
Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction
The Honorable Xavier Becerra
The Honorable Dave Camp
The Honorable James E. Clyburn
The Honorable Fred Upton
The Honorable Chris Van Hollen
The Honorable Max Baucus
The Honorable Jon Kyl
The Honorable John Kerry
The Honorable Rob Portman
The Honorable Pat Toomey
Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction
Dear Co-Chairs and Members,
Congress and the American people have entrusted you with a great responsibility – ensuring the economic well-being of our nation. This is no simple task and will require both bold decisions and fair compromises.