The leadership of the bipartisan special joint committee said in admitting that political gridlock had blinded the "super committee" from the broader problems facing the country that in a statement: "After months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee's deadline."
Both parties blamed the other on Capitol Hill and there was political sniping between the U.S. Senate and U.S. House as well. Lots of politicians issued statements citing their personal "disappointment" over the failure of the committee to reach agreements.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said members of his Democratic Party "were prepared to strike a grand bargain that would make painful cuts while asking millionaires to pay their fair share, and we put our willingness on paper," but that Republicans across the political aisle "never came close to meeting us halfway."
But his Republican counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, argued that an agreement "proved impossible not because Republicans were unwilling to compromise, but because Democrats would not accept any proposal that did not expand the size and scope of government or punish job creators."
There was even sniping among the 2012 field of Republican presidential contenders and between them and Democratic President Barack Obama. GOP candidates said that Obama had failed to display the leadership necessary to forge an agreement, an accusation rejected by the White House.
The failure of the "super committee" mocks the fiscal realities facing the country. Over the next decade, the Obama administration has proposed some $45.8 trillion of spending with some $20 trillion of that to be spent on Social Security (retirement pensions), Medicaid (health care for the poor, the blind, disabled and children), and Medicare (health care for senior citizens).
Not only is Social Security upside down in terms of benefits paid versus payroll deductions received in 2010, but the Social Security trust fund has been reduced by $2.5 trillion worth of congressional borrowing. What retirees and Baby Boomers really have in terms of that "nest egg" they thought they had when FICA was being deducted from their payroll checks is in reality a pile of IOUs in a filing cabinet in Parkersburg, W. Va. The 2.5 trillion owed to Social Security is part of the $14 trillion national debt. And, oh, by the way, Social Security has a total unfunded liability of well over $8 trillion.
The truth is that the nation's debt and deficit situation would have been tenuous even if the "super committee's" work had succeeded on every front. Once again, the committee was little more than a sideshow that diverted attention from the more complex problems - like having Congress explain what happened to the Social Security trust fund.
Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org