Commentary Magazine


How the SuperCommittee Might Work to GOP Advantage

The budget deal requires an additional $1.5 trillion in spending cuts to be designed by a “super-committee of legislators” who will propose painful recommendations—and if those recommendations aren’t accepted by both Houses, there will be automatic cuts to Defense and Medicare. The idea here is that Republicans will be restrained from avoiding tough choices by the supercommittee by the prospect of big defense cuts, while Democrats will feel the same way about Medicare.

Oh? So, going into an extremely nerve-wracking election season, only Republicans will care about defense spending? Defense spending has been all but sacrosanct for the past decade, and there’s a reason for that: the public loves the military, it’s the most popular institution in America, we’re fighting two wars, and whatever the military wants it gets. So Democrats don’t mind handing potential rivals an issue relating to their irresponsibility toward our military?

Oh, yes, they sure do and they sure will.

Similarly, it’s one thing for Republicans to redesign Medicare to make it more affordable; not even a conservative Republican politician wants to be held accountable for draconian across-the-board cuts.

Tonight, Barack Obama all but guaranteed the November showdown would involve tax increases (his “balanced” approach). At the same time, House Speaker John Boehner says changes in how the budget is calculated (the “baseline”) makes such tax hikes almost impossible.

But again, let’s look at this practically. Democrats actually want to vote for tax increases going into an election year? The leading Democrat in the Senate, Harry Reid, certainly didn’t want that even now for members of his caucus, 15 months before the election.

So, in the final analysis, the logic of the “trigger” in the showdown depends on Democrats not minding defense cuts and desiring tax hikes. They won’t want either and will therefore be pushed in the Republican direction in the negotiations.