By focusing on deficit reduction, not job creation, the so-called congressional supercommittee is focused entirely on the wrong problems and therefore, the nation would be better off it were to fail to come up with a deal, progressive members of Congress were told Wednesday.
Indeed, the sorts of budget-cutting likely to be recommended by the supercommittee, known formally as the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, likely would only worsen the already-bleak U.S. unemployment situation, according to Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future, a progressive policy organization.
“For this nation to succeed, the supercommittee must fail,” Borosage says.
Borosage was one of those invited to testify Wednesday at a hearing called by the Congressional Progressive Caucus focusing on job-creation, to which Democrats and Republicans on the supercommittee specifically had been invited. The members of the supercommittee, however, were a no show at the hearing.
The supercommittee is just days away from a deadline to release recommendations for reducing the federal budget deficit by more than $1 trillion over 10 years. It’s still unclear if the panel, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, will arrive at agreement on a set of recommendations.
“If a drunken bus driver were careening down the wrong road that leads directly off a steep cliff, we would want him to fail. That is exactly the case with the supercommittee,” Borosage says. “They are headed down the wrong road and it will be ruinous if they succeed.
“This is a nation with 26 million people in need of full-time work. Wages are not keeping up with prices,” he adds. “Poverty, now at record levels, is spreading. One in five homes with a mortgage is underwater. Companies are sitting on trillions in profits waiting for customers…We should be having a fierce argument about how to put people to work and get this economy going. … Instead the supercommittee is peddling austerity, pushing Republicans to accept tax hikes — or at least pretend to accept them — and Democrats to embrace cuts in Social Security and Medicare. This is grand folly.
The best deficit-reduction plan would be to put people back to work, Borosage says.
“In fact, America does not have a short-term debt problem,” he says. “If we have a recovery, then our deficits will come down to manageable levels by the end of the decade. If we don’t have a recovery, then austerity will simply make things worse …”
Instead of its current course, the supercommittee should report out –- with its expedited voting powers -– “a bold and sustained jobs proposal,” combining increases in spending on infrastructure, on direct public jobs programs, on aid to states and localities, on mortgage relief for homeowners, with some tax cuts to enlist the support of Republicans, Borosage suggests.
“It would then make the trigger for any turn to austerity not an arbitrary date, but when Americans are going back to work, and unemployment is down to 4 or 5 percent,” he adds.
After the hearing, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus lamented the absence of supercommittee members at the jobs hearing.
“Rather than asking the 1% to pay their fair share, the Super Committee is going after the vital programs that make America strong — these cuts would have a drastic impact on the health and financial security of far too many Americans,” Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) says in an email. “… Over the past several months, I have offered constructive recommendations for deficit reduction while stressing the need to put Americans back to work — there are real solutions to our debt crisis that don’t hurt the 99%.”
At this point, Grijalva says he is urging supporters to pressure supercommittee members to take cuts to Medicare and Medicaid off the table.
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.