Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Super-Failure: Why the Super-Committee Failed

I don't usually blog on national political news, but this one is hard to resist! As we all know, the so-called "Super- Committee" failed to reach a consensus on budget cuts and revenue. Although, the blogosphere is teeming with complex post-mortem explanations as to why it failed, I have a much simpler explanation. They were asked to "cut the budget" and/or "enhance revenue." What they really needed to do is reform wasteful programs and departments within that budget and reform the tax code.

Congress has a moral and political responsibility to make sure that tax dollars are spent as efficiently as possible. However, nearly every government program and department is riddled with well-documented wasteful spending. By far the worst budget-busters are the departments of Defense and Homeland Security. The "visible waste" in  these bloated, unsupervised bureaucracies is legendary, while the "invisible waste" is hidden away in budgetary "black holes," where little is known and budgets are fictional. There's no telling how many investigations have been conducted by both governmental and non-governmental watchdog groups: costly research that invariably disappears into other well known "black hole:" the "congressional archives." Ironically, some of the best unread research is conducted by Congressional Budget Office. In short, everyone agrees that these programs and departments need reform, and there's plenty of information out there prescribing what needs to be done. The same can be said for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. But simply cutting the budgets of inefficient, bureacracies will only make those programs less efficient and more wasteful.

What about revenue enhancement? Again, everyone in Congress knows that our tax system has become a bastion of unfairness and incomprehensibility. It's so arcane and complex that most Americans employ third parties to file their taxes. It's even incomprehensible to the IRS! The astronomical error rate for the chronically understaffed, under-brained IRS has been documented many times over, in 6,000 page reports. Unfortunately, those reports are ultimately filed away in the Congressional Archives, or well hidden from Internet search engines, never to be seen again. Moreover, everyone knows that the tax code needs to be reformed from top to bottom, but that's not  even on the political horizon. Herman Cain's feeble-minded 9-9-9 tax proposal clearly illustrates this tendency to ignore well-known facts. 

So, if Congress already has access to the information necessary to reform and/or eliminate wasteful spending, why don't they do it? That's a good question. Here's my theory. First of all, individual congressmen rarely if ever read anything substantive. Why not? First of all, there's so much information, misinformation, and disinformation manufactured by government agencies that it's impossible for any one human to read even a small portion of it. That's why individual lawmakers hire an army of congressional staffers to read it and summarize it. Now, there's no guarantee that staff members are themselves competent and/or actually read and comprehend those 6,000 page reports. Nevertheless, staffers pass on those summaries to illiterate congressmen, who may (or may not) read them.  

So why is it that politicians don't read and act on this vast body of well-documented information? Well, it's because they are politicians and therefore spend most of their time, energy, and resources running for re-election. Watch C-Span and marvel at the quasi-articulate speeches delivered before an empty rooms! But then again, when they do show up for work, they rarely vote on anything. Check out what congress has actually accomplished this year! Your jaw will drop! 

So why did the super-committee fail? Well, for starters they were pursuing the wrong goal. Why pay a group of lawyers to argue endlessly over whether to cut budget items and/or increase revenue under the guise of half-baked political and economic theories? They should have been actually fixing and/or cutting inefficient programs and departments and the reforming the tax code. My modest solution? I think we need a whole new batch of politicians with a strong work ethic; statesmen that read more, attend more, and simply act more. I would also argue that we have WAY too many lawyers in Congress that stay in office WAY too long. Let's insist that the forthcoming 2012 Congress actually read, attend, and act upon what's already known. In sum, we Americans have been WAY too tolerant of incompetent lawmakers. Next November, I propose that we vote out every single incumbant in the House and Senate, and whenever possible vote for third party candidates. In short, let's fix the system ourselves.                 

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