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August 12th, 2011

Super Committee “Dumb” and Unconstitutional

In Thursday’s Republican presidential debate, Newt Gingrich labeled the 12-person deficit reduction committee “dumb.”  He’s right. This “super committee,” is super stupid and moreover, it’s unconstitutional.

The committee was devised as part of the debt ceiling deal reached on August 2.

The committee is charged with deciding how to reduce deficit spending by the federal government over the next decade.

Here are four reasons why it’s doomed to fail, all the while allowing the nation’s debt to mount.

1. The Congress is shirking its responsibilities.  Senator Mitch McConnell (R. Kentucky), one of the architects of the August 2nd deal, explained that the committee would “tackle some of the very difficult problems that we have been unwilling or unable to deal with.”  Why elect Congress?  If its 535 members don’t want to make the difficult calls, or don’t want to be accountable for them, they ought to move aside for newer blood rather than presiding over the erosion of government by the people. Most of the twelve chosen for the committee are in “safe seats” and Senator Jon Kyl (R. Arizona) is said to be retiring.

2. The committee’s goal is small potatoes.   In each of the last three years, federal spending has outpaced revenue by more than $1 trillion. And the Obama administration’s long-term budget forecasts deficits of at least $1 trillion a year as far as the eye can see.  Amazingly, the committee’s puny target is to reduce ten years worth of deficits by a mere $1.2 trillion by either trimming future spending levels (not cuts from current levels) or raising taxes or a combination.   No wonder Standard & Poor’s responded with a downgrade. It’s like asking a 400 pound woman to take off 30 pounds over the next ten years.

3. The nation needs a spending reduction, not deficit reduction. The six Democrats named to the committee are calling for a “balanced approach.”  Those are weasel words for tax increases, not just spending controls.  But the Obama health law, enacted sixteen months ago, already raised taxes by  $503 billion over the next decade.

What is needed now is spending cuts, period.  Federal spending has soared to 25% of gross domestic product under President Obama, compared with 18% of GDP in President Bill Clinton’s final year, and 20% of GDP in President George W. Bush’s final year.  Only once before in American history did federal spending reach 25% of GDP — during World War II, when the nation was fighting for its survival. . Nothing today justifies the federal government consuming 25% of the fruits of our labor.

4. The plan unconstitutionally delegates the power to originate tax increases to 12 people.

Article 1, Sec. 7 of the U.S. Constitution says: “all bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives.” Only the 435 member House of Representatives can do it.  Recommending is one thing, but this committee has arm-twisting power.  Congress must vote up or down on its plan without making changes, and if Congress rejects it, that triggers $1.5 trillion in automatic spending cuts over the next decade, half from defense and homeland security. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta wrote a letter to the troops after the August 2 deal saying “that would do real damage to our security, our troops and their families, and our ability to protect the nation.”  That dire alternative could mean that what the committee says goes, including tax hikes.

At the debate, Gingrich captured the coercive nature of it, saying:  “We can shoot you in the head or cut off your right leg.”

This committee violates  “no taxation without representation.”  In 1765 the British Parliament tried to impose a stamp tax on unrepresented American colonists.   That was the start of the War of Independence.  To protect us from excessive taxation, the framers decided that tax increases have to originate in the House of Representatives, the most representative branch of government. House members are elected every two-year from small districts, and are therefore closest to the people and will safeguard their liberty. Even the 100 members of the Senate do not have the authority to originate tax increases. Delegating that power to 12 people is a perversion of the Constitution.

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About the Author

Betsy McCaughey
Betsy McCaughey, Ph.D., is a patient advocate and former Lt. Governor of New York State. She is a regular contributor to

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