Y ou might not have noticed this week (actually, probably not since it’s break and we’re all skiing and goofing off) but Wednesday is the deadline for the congressional supercommittee to finalize its budget plan.
The way I understand it (in complete layman’s terms, of course) is that Congress, as a whole, realized they couldn’t agree last summer on a plan to cut the deficit, so they created a “supercommittee.” This committee consisted of problem-solving superpowers and some kind of superhuman imperviousness to all the polarized political talk of late.
I’m interested, because I sometimes feel like having a supercommittee to manage my budget could be a really great idea — even if its job would only be to restrict my spending on bagels and help me negotiate rent with a landlord. Maybe we all could do with one, since so much of our economy is based on credit cards, mortgages, all kinds of debt — just to skirt the sticky business of budget-balancing.
Unfortunately, the congressional supercommittee is charged with a little more than just telling me not to buy bagels. They have to find a new $1.2 to $1.5 trillion dollars in deficit reduction over the next 10 years — which seems analogous to finding the Lost Road to Eldorado, or a living Elvis Presley.
So as I’m writing this, they’re arguing over exactly what we could have predicted: taxes. In a game of chicken, both sides are waiting for the other to budge. It’s like thestupidest game of freeze tag ever, where both sides somehow got tagged and now neither can move until the other does.
If nothing happens, if no deal is reached, we’ll default to something called sequestration of funds: Every federally-funded organization will have funds cut (this hurts both sides, since the Department of Defense gets hurt just as much as health, income support, transportation, justice, energy and other programs).
The Bush tax cuts will also expire, which would bring in almost $4 trillion in additional revenue — so, many Democrats are saying that sequestration is definitely not the worst outcome.
It’s fine for me to roll my eyes at this whole debacle — I study water and ice, where everything behaves according to some very straightforward rules. There’s is no negotiation nor filibustering in summer melt and winter freeze cycles. But my more worldly parents tell me this whole process is harder than I’m making it out to be.
That’s why I found this site,budget-sense.org, that lets you try to balance the federal budget yourself. I tried it, and I found out pretty quickly that no amount of cutting services is going to, er, “cut it.” (My puns are just getting worse and worse these days.)
But then I took a look at the revenue side of things: taxes, especially on the richest tax bracket, have been trending downward since 1960, and all sorts of revenue can be brought in by raising taxes back to 1975, or better yet, 1960 rates.
I also opted for a tax on greenhouse gas emissions and a tax on “too-big-to-fail” institutions — and guess what? Balancing the budget was easy. I even added a little extra to boost student financial aid and school funding, and still reduced the deficit. So there, supercommittee. If I can do it, then you totally can too.