So, the congressional “super committee” failed to agree to a deal that would cut deficits. Maybe the defense-heavy spending cuts will now take effect, or maybe Congress will find a way to finagle its way out of them.
A deal that reformed entitlements and the tax code would have been great. But it was never terribly likely.
As much as people like to wring their hands about partisanship and ideological inflexibility, the fact is that there is a deep divide in this country about how to fix the nation’s finances. Oh, sure, you can find polls whose respondents largely say, “cut spending and raise taxes!” But dig much deeper, and the specifics — usually, cut the spending I don’t like (on programs that amount to peanuts), and raise other people’s taxes — don’t lend themselves to a grand bargain.
There is an election in 11.5 months, and no issue before the electorate surpasses the urgent importance of this one. There won’t be a breakthrough on it before then. Whether we get one afterward, and how soon, will depend a) on the results, and b) how soon the inevitable arrives.
Because the day of reckoning is inevitable: Anything that can’t go on forever, as the economist Herb Stein is said to have pointed out, won’t. And this definitely can’t.
– By Kyle Wingfield