As readers will most likely know, the US Congress, in its decision to raise the debt limit of the federal government, chose to create a "Super Committee", which would have a temporary job of determining $1.2 trillion in budget cuts over the next ten years. After appointing this committee, Congress went on vacation for a month. Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? A committee to sort out the details while everybody else goes to play golf.
The news made me think of a large department store. One day it is open for business and the next day, the windows are all covered in brown paper with the notice: "Closed for remodeling".
This image is apt as the Super Committee represents a "remodeled" way of doing business for Congress. After the Super Committee has made its decisions on what the cuts will be, the other members of Congress will only be able to vote yea or nay; they will not be able to debate or modify the recommendations. The remaining members of Congress become mere rubber stamps for the Super Committee. They cease to be contributing members.
And let's not forget about the close cousin of "Closed for Remodeling":
"We're changing our look to serve you better than ever!"
Another common statement that communicates the message: "of course our old look was perfectly all right, so don't get the idea that our store was failing under our old image. But, our new look will be even better!"
Again, apropos to what Congress is up to. The fact is, whenever remodeling takes place, it is specifically because the old image is failing and change is needed in order to survive. Truth be told, it is not uncommon for a store that is on the verge of folding to remodel as a last desperate attempt to regain business. And here the parallel also holds true. The US Congress is becoming increasingly fragmented and out of control.
Sometimes, if the remodeling is deep enough, there can be substantial personnel changes, which will give rise to this age-old statement:
"Under New Management"
When the above sign appears in the window, it tells us that the store has been bought out. Is there a parallel here for Congress? The answer is yes. The American Constitution puts the responsibility for legislation into the hands of Congress - the entire Congress.
Special committees can be appointed, but their subsequent recommendations are subject to debate and revision by the entire Congress. Not so with the Super Committee. The creators of the Super Committee claim that the purpose for its being allotted powers beyond what the Constitution allows is to make the process of deciding on budget cuts more efficient. I think this is likely to be proven a lie.
Since the crash of 2008, Congressmen eager to keep their jobs have at times broken away from the party line in order to appease their constituencies. Traditionally, they have told their voters one thing, then voted in the opposite direction, in accordance with the wishes of their parties, assuring that the parties rule the country, not the voters.
However, since 2008, voters have been watching more closely and the pressure by voters on individual Congressmen has increased. More problematic than that, in November of 2010, a new batch of Congressmen - many of them Tea Partiers - have been voted in. Some have been "business as usual" Congressmen, but others have refused to play ball with Congress in agreeing to an increased debt limit, as desired by both parties.
In 2012, if even more of these troublesome people are voted in, the two existing parties may not be able to continue to maintain their control. A solution had to be found to remove the powers of the newcomers before this eventuality occurred.
I believe that it is unlikely that the purpose of the Super Committee is to address the debt and then be disbanded. I believe that its purpose is far more insidious - that it become a standing committee of exceptionally powerful but not directly elected individuals.
What no one yet seems to be questioning regarding the Super Committee is its potential permanence. The Super Committee has twelve members - three chosen by the Speaker of the House, three chosen by the House Minority Leader, three chosen by the Senate Majority Leader and three chosen by the Senate Minority Leader. On the surface, this committee appears to be balanced, but it is not.
Each of the four designators is a tried and true entrenched devotee to his own party. This assures that each chosen member will be a first-rate flunky. This leaves the power in the hands of the four leaders.
Why the imbalance?
Because it entirely dismisses any possibility of input from the growing groups within the Congress such as the tea partiers, independents, libertarians, etc. At present, these groups are fringe groups, but they are growing fast. It should be asked whether the true purpose of the Super Committee is to limit these groups to rubber stamps - to eliminate their ability to effect real change. That will ensure the maintenance of the two-party illusion without all the distractions created by those who offer alternative possibilities.
In my view, the US Congress is indeed "Under New Management", a management of exclusion. If I am correct in this, I believe that there can be two outcomes - each very different from the other.
The first would be that, when the Super Committee reveals its programme of cuts, there is a surge of revolt from the fringe groups in the Congress that have, by then, figured out that they have been marginalized. They would refuse to cooperate and demand the committee be disbanded, with its recommendations be void.
The other outcome would be that the committee, with the support of the majority of Congressmen (those entrenched in their parties) would become a permanent body whose stated purpose is to handle "those problems that are require swift and immediate action."
That may sound fair and prudent on the surface, but, in reality, it would create a new tier in the governance of the US: a tier just below the President that has the authority to make decisions without the interference of those who do not toe the party line. This would be a major step away from the constitution and dangerous threat to the already diminishing democracy of the US.
Editor's Note: Jeff's article today introduces a fairly radical concept that would give a small group of unelected individuals the power to introduce and potentially implement decisions that could have far-reaching effects on those who don't agree with the way the country is moving - free thinkers, libertarians and the like.
In our minds, this sets a dangerous precedent.
Do you think the creation of this Super Committee is indeed a temporary fix or are the powers that be going to push for permanence? Is it a program that could expand into other areas outside of the debt situation? Do you feel this is a grab by the government to simply consolidate power even further in the hopes of pushing through even further draconian legislation in the future?
We'd love to hear your thoughts, both pro and con.