Of course the "Super Committee" - what a dopey name - "failed." It was designed to fail, set up to fail, populated with people for whom failure was the only option. When President Obama announced the deal to extend the debt ceiling, with its absurd conditions, including a committee which would generate $1.2 trillion in cuts... or else... the painful stench of failure was already there.
And really, it just never went away.
It's easy to pin this failure as Example 376 of How Washington Is Not Working. I find the sight of the pundits, all weekend and through yesterday, earnestly insisting that the Comittee wasn't a foregone exercise in failure, but an earnest attempt to get it done, both sad and hilarious. Nobody thought there was a workable deal. And the people who thought This Time Would Be Different are especially foolish and gullible.
Of course, Washington isn't working...but simply blaming the current crop of politicians is too easy. This is failure that Americans actually voted for, and we, as voters and citizens ought to own up to our role in it. These people in DC fail because, in no small part, we want them to fail. We don't want to pay more taxes, we don't want to see government services cut, many people just want what we had before the economy fell apart.... or more precisely, the economy we had mostly under Bill Clinton.
We elect people who promise not to make the hard choices... and then wonder why they don't make them.
So beyond the obvious failure, the one we knew was going to happen months ago, what else was at work here, and what happens now? Well, I'd argue that the real success here, the one that was set up months ago, is a long term success for Democrats, and it's success that builds on the real failure that we've been struggling with for close to ten years... the failed Presidency of George W. Bush.
Why are we in this "debt crisis"? Well, we're here for a couple of reasons. One is because of a set of tax cuts, passed during the Bush years, which have decimated the amount of revenue the government takes in by artificially cutting everyone's income tax rate. The other reason is the implosion of financial markets, driven by an explosion in mortgage bonds fueld by bad loans... and exacerbated, in no small part, by a President who insisted "everyone should own a home," and who pushed policies and programs that would do that, including pushing people into loans that many shouldn't have taken and couldn't afford.
Since 2006, Republicans have lost election after election because of the failures of George W' Bush. That includes his policy failures, and the campaign of deep divisiveness pursued by his advisors. It also includes a failure on the part of current Republicans to repudiate the Bush-era disasters, and to develop new strategies. It's why Republicans have "problems with their base" and "Tea Party" politics driven by anger and loyalty tests to failed, contradictory philosophies.
Democrats, too, struggle with the Bush-era failures; though we made steady progress back to elected majorities in Congress and elected a President, the hangover of failed Bush policies has made dealing with the aftermath difficult. President Obama has proven to be weakest on economic issues, putting a team in place whose connections to banking and finance and acceptance of the status quo added to our problems. With no significant reform of foreclosures, big banking, or the mortgage industry, we have few real options for solving our current economic crisis. And on tax cuts, President Obama and congressional Democrats have been afraid to speak plainly that the Bush tax cuts - all of them - simply must go.
The "Super Failure" though, may offer some glimmers of solutions down the road - if the automatic cuts are adhered to, then some progress on spending will happen... and it will happen to the Defense Department, where it is long overdue. But more importantly, it now seems likely that the Bush tax cuts may well expire fully at the end of 2012. It seems clear that Congressional Democrats will not be blackmailed into bad deals over making the Bush cuts permanent, and the will to extend them past 2012 weakens every day. Further, the Super Committee debates, which rehashed familiar arguments on all sides, led more than a few pundits to a natural conclusion - we can talk about the Bush tax cuts ending, because more people are realizing that a main reaosn our deficits are so enormous is because tax policy makes no sense.
Republicans are, clearly, pinning a lot of their hopes to the elections next year, that dissatisfaction with President Obama - and managing to shift blame for much of the Bush hangover on to him - will give them the Presidency and greater control of Congress. There may be a scenario where Mitt Romney can become President... but it's still pretty unlikely, and no one, really can say what Romney's approach to economic policy would be with certainty (that's the underlying concern about his all over the place previous positions). But it doesn't matter when we're talking Bush tax cuts; those expire after the general election before the next President takes orfice. If Obama loses the eection... who thinks he'll sign off on a further extension of the Bush cuts? His best mischief would be to let them expire... and forc Romney to try and argue that recreating them makes sound budgetary sense. That won't happen, either.
Allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire will force us to move forward on other discussions - how to really tackle health care costs, reexamining the problems with banks and foreclosures, and probably having some sensible discussions about separating what's essential in governmetn spending from what can, and should, get cut. We could reform payroll taxes by raising the income ceiling. We could do tax reform that reduces deductions and resets tax rates in a smarter way than the Bush approach. There's a lot of options, and if the Bush cuts expire, we could start to figure out what they are.
Republicans need to lose next year because the Bush Presidency needs, still, to be fully and complretely repudiated. Our media avoids mentioning the failed Bush Presidency, partly because it's divisive, and partly because we don't like to talk about our past, especially our recent past. And the silence over the failed Bush presidency has alowed Republicans to pretend both that it never happened and that if it did happen, let's remember the parts we like. The failure of the Super Committee - whether we're talking the failures of deep political divisions that squashed meaningful debate, or the practical failures of deep debt and a wrecked economy, all stem directly, and pointedly, from the failures we lived through under George W. Bush. Thank goodness, really, that the Super Committee failed rather than giving us yet another way to paper over the Bush Administration's failures without directly naming them. The stench of failure you smell... that's the lingering smell of that failed President we had last time. Let's not go there again.