Is Super Committee Failure a Good Thing?

November 21, 2011
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By Wednesday, the so-called “Super Committee,” a bipartisan group of legislators, is supposed to reach an agreement on how to reduce future deficits. Almost everybody expects the effort to fail. The result:  automatic across-the-board spending reductions called “sequester.” Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

By Wednesday, the so-called “Super Committee,” a bipartisan group of legislators, is supposed to reach an agreement on how to reduce future deficits. Almost everybody expects the effort to fail. The result:  automatic across-the-board spending reductions called “sequester.” Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

On the left, Paul Krugman says “failure is good.” On the right, Phil Gramm says that in failure there is a “silver lining.” Surely somebody is miscalculating, and it probably isn’t Gramm. E.J. Dionne observes that if Congress did nothing there would be $7.1 trillion in deficit reduction (primarily through the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and already legislated reductions in Medicare spending), in contrast to $1.2 trillion of sequestration. Ezra Klein endorses that view and provides the breakdown.

What about the fear that across-the-board spending cuts would harm defense spending and other vital programs? Gramm says that the law governing the Super Committee contains a little-noticed provision from the old Gramm-Rudman budget rules: In the face of sequestration, Congress can pass better budget-cutting provisions on a majority vote, with no filibuster. Avik Roy provides additional explanation.