BILL CRAWFORD: "Hail Mary" needed to reduce deficit

By Bill Crawford

Elections held Mississippian’s attention this week. Next week we’ll start focusing on the “supercommittee.” That’s the media name for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction created by Congress 13 weeks ago.
The supercommittee will unveil its “save the country” deficit reduction plan in six weeks … maybe. The dealine, I mean deadline, is November 23rd.
A major deal would usher in a new era of civility and prosperity for America. It would define the clear, long-term fiscal path needed to give certainty to financial markets and business planning.
No deal will most likely give us months, if not years, of venomous politics and volatile markets.
The supercommittee’s minimum deficit reduction target is $1.5 trillion over ten years. Nobody expects that to be enough to stop the national “debt bomb” from ticking. The Simpson-Bowles Commission and other experts say it will take at least $4 trillion to save the country.
But $1.5 trillion is all our contentious Congress could agree upon last August amidst its last second compromise to raise the debt ceiling and avoid default on U.S. debt obligations.
The six Republicans and six Democrats who make up the supercommittee show little penchant for reaching agreement. Pundits would have us think their disagreement is all about Democrats wanting tax hikes and Republicans wanting only budget cuts.
Folks, nothing in Washington is that simple.
Why?
Lobbyists and special interests.
Internet news source Politico reported nearly 200 companies and special interests are lobbying the supercommittee. Knowing cuts are coming, these lobbyists are, in Politico’s words, “hoping to blunt whatever comes their way.” This pits Republicans against Republicans and Democrats against Democrats because farm, defense, transportation, energy, health care, and other interests vary by state and region more than they do by party.
There are other powerful interests with sway, too. The political big boys don’t want any agreement. They see the divisive politics surrounding the deficit issue as good politics heading into next year’s federal elections. They want no middle ground for candidates.
That’s the real rub, you know.
Average Americans need and yearn for middle ground decisions to pull out of this funk economy. But those who profit from special deals fight it. And, those who get politicians elected fear it, wanting to keep choices between candidates stark.
In this high stakes game, average Americans are under-represented underdogs.
Odds are the supercommittee will fail to compromise, just as Congress failed earlier this year. It’s certainly going to take a last minute “Hail Mary” play for a $4 trillion compromise to pass.
Now, November 23rd has not been an auspicious date in American history. But, it was the date in 1984 for Doug Flutie’s miracle “Hail Mary” pass leading Boston College over Miami.
Underdogs do win sometimes.
Bill Crawford (crawfolk@gmail.com) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.