Political Animal


October 29, 2011 8:00 AM The Dems’ wasted super-committee opportunity

By Steve Benen

This week, Democrats on the so-called super-committee crafted a $3 trillion debt-reduction package, far exceeding the panel’s mandated target. Dems were apparently offering a two-to-one deal to the GOP: Democrats would accept $2 trillion in spending cuts (including entitlement cuts Dems don’t like) in exchange for $1 trillion in tax revenue.

It was intended as a constructive proposal that requires sacrifice and compromise on both sides. Republicans didn’t see it that way, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) rejected the moderate Dem plan as unacceptable.

But he wasn’t the only one. Leaders on the left were able to get more details on the Democratic super-committee offer, and the closer they looked, the less they saw to like. Yesterday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, for example, helped lead the charge against the plan, insisting it conceded far too much to the right.

Liberal critics were bolstered by a stinging analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The new deficit-reduction plan from a majority of Democrats on the congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the “supercommittee”) marks a dramatic departure from traditional Democratic positions — and actually stands well to the right of plans by the co-chairs of the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson commission and the Senate’s “Gang of Six,” and even further to the right of the plan by the bipartisan Rivlin-Domenici commission.

The Democratic plan contains substantially smaller revenue increases than those bipartisan proposals while, for example, containing significantly deeper cuts in Medicare and Medicaid than the Bowles-Simpson plan. The Democratic plan features a substantially higher ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases than any of the bipartisan plans.

I’m trying to imagine what committee Dems were thinking. If they’d presented this plan as the final compromise agreement — the culmination of months of hard-fought negotiations — and said it was the best available deal that Republicans would accept, we could at least have a conversation about it.

But it’s not. This is the Democratic offer to GOP members of the super-committee — an offer Republicans quickly dismissed out of hand for being too liberal. It sets the benchmark for the Dems’ position well to the right of what makes sense.

If Democrats on the super-committee thought Republicans would appreciate the concessions and respond in kind, they’re terribly naive. Indeed, this was plainly evident when the GOP produced their counter-offer and it was a far-right joke with no meaningful concessions at all.

Maybe Dems assume the negotiations will fail, and just wanted to look “serious” and “reasonable” in the eyes of the political establishment? They’re hoping to make clear which party will ultimately be responsible for the breakdown of the super-committee process? Even if that is the plan, that doesn’t explain why Dems on the panel couldn’t present a more sensible approach, putting the party on record supporting a smarter, more popular, and more progressive debt agenda.

What a wasted opportunity. What a terrible mistake.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • FRP on October 29, 2011 8:15 AM:

    When the historical record is written the Faerie that will have dragged us into the darkest night will not have been the one which destroyed marriage , but the mean old confidence one .
    Help dress the confidence faerie supporters , their tailor was a confidence tailor .

  • Brenna on October 29, 2011 8:18 AM:

    Steve wrote: It sets the benchmark for the Dems position well to the right of what makes sense.

    I am so incensed about the deal the dems offered up. They have effectively moved the conversation way to the right. Tax cuts to the wealthy should be the first order of business, not cutting valuable programs from vulnerable people who had nothing to do with the economic mess the politicans have landed us into.

    The democratic party is no longer a party for the people. They're in bed with the same dirty corporate money as the republicans. IMO, the two parties are now indistinguishable. OWS has the right idea at the right time.

  • c u n d gulag on October 29, 2011 8:26 AM:

    The Democrats obviously wanted another David Brooks column where he bemoans the Republicans not taking up the offers.

    Brenna - SPOT ON!!!

    But, I'll still take the Democrats Whoreporatist's to the Republican madmen/women.

    The time may soon come when we need to remind the 1% about what happened to King Midas:
    And, as the whole world seems to be getting into the spirit of OWS - WHERE WILL YOU RUN?

  • Mark on October 29, 2011 8:29 AM:

    I agree that this is a horrible proposal; but did it serve a useful purpose? To once again show that Republicans are not serious about deficit reduction?

    Maybe I have too much of an glass half-full outlook on this.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 29, 2011 8:33 AM:

    Democrats are just fu king incompetent when it comes to playing politics. Sickening and nauseatingly incompetent. You'd think they would have learned that in the 2010 elections when Republicans beat Democrats over the head about the ACA gutting Medicare. And it wasn't even true. Now, the dum bass Democrats on the super-committee are actually offering up cuts. It's just stunningly stupid. I get nauseated thinking about it.

    I've written to each of the Democratic Senators on the committee and told them precisely. The language was unacceptable for television. I hope everybody does the same.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 29, 2011 8:36 AM:

    "...precisely what I think." is what I meant to say. (I get absolutely apoplectic when I reflect on the complete fucking boneheadedness of Democrats' political skills. Just sputtering mad.)

  • Maritza on October 29, 2011 8:36 AM:

    The only good think that has happened is that there will be NO "grand bargain" in the end for I just don't see Democrats voting for this in the Congress.

  • berttheclock on October 29, 2011 8:49 AM:

    Ah, Miss Patty, say it ain't so - Your worn tenny runners worked great for you for years. Why, now, do you want them to be Gold Plated? Please, Ms Murrary, please, explain yourself. Boeing needs more tax breaks, eh?

  • hells littlest angel on October 29, 2011 8:52 AM:

    I wonder if it makes any difference where the "conversation" is. If theatrics is all there is, why not put on the best show you can? If Republicans will reject the Democrats offer no matter WHAT it is, why not make an offer that makes Republican intransigence all the more glaring?

    I could be wrong. But this reflexive complaining about Democratic weakness is counterproductive, not to mention totally fucking stupid.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 29, 2011 8:58 AM:

    @hell's: you are wrong.

  • Sadie on October 29, 2011 9:00 AM:

    why not make an offer that makes Republican intransigence all the more glaring?

    I suppose they could propose a 9-9-9 plan, total elimination of regulations, or the elimination of the Eductation Department. Wouldn't that just show 'em?

  • j on October 29, 2011 9:08 AM:

    Look at the members of the deficit commission, Toomey for a start, when he was running for office he and my useless Senator Burr held a reception for the Washington lobbyists, Toomey promised he would support and work for 100% the corporate agenda.

  • hells littlest angel on October 29, 2011 9:12 AM:

    Unless substantial numbers of Republicans in Congress resign or keel over dead (just trying to put a smile on everyone's faces), no significant legislation related to the economy or jobs will be produced between now and 2013. All the Democrats can do in the meantime is highlight the Republicans' refusal to bargain in good faith. They do themselves no harm by painting themselves as willing to compromise.

    This "super-committee" has never been anything but an exercise in bullshit, anyway.

  • Fr33d0m on October 29, 2011 9:16 AM:

    I cannot fathom the amount of shear stupidity it would take for Dems to offer such a plan from a political standpoint. This plan says as plainly and directly as is possible that the Democratic party doesn't deserve support.

  • SW on October 29, 2011 9:25 AM:

    This is why we are done with these assholes. The party is bankrupt. The Republic is dead. The whole system is completely captured by the 1% who are desperately trying to prevent wealth dilution. There is nothing to salvage here. We are going to have to scrap everything except the constitution and start over. And it isn't going to be pretty. Notice there are no political parties in the constitution.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 29, 2011 9:26 AM:

    @hell's: You're wrong again.

    "They do themselves no harm by painting themselves as willing to compromise."

    - Democrats and Obama gained nothing from the stupid reasonableness campaign during the blundering debt ceiling fiasco strategy by Obama's clueless political advisors.
    - This "offer" from the Democrats on the supercommittee gives Republicans yet another chance to saying Dems want to destroy Medicare, Medicaid, ..., the safety net. (Remember the Ryan campaign letter?) Even after Republicans beat the Democrats over the head in 2010 with the false charge Democrats were going after Medicare, you'd think Democrats would learn their lesson -- the public pays NO attention to nuance. But they don't learn. And this time the Republicans really do have Democrats offering up cuts to Medicare. For nothing in return but less favorable liberal/progressive conditions than Simpson-Bowles.

    Just mind numbingly stupid.

    You couldn't be more wrong. You wouldn't be David Plouffe, would you?

  • Celui on October 29, 2011 9:32 AM:

    Did we, at the start of this 'SuperCommittee' charade, actually expect that our elected senators would behave as 'elected' senators instead of 'bought-and-paid-for' senators?? There's no promise for the American public when the decision makers are beholden to outside interests, when the Court has provided some nonsense as 'Citizens United' as legal basis for purchasing representation in the land. This is all theatre, and the obstructionist Republicans will continue to ply their directionless courses, the spineless Democrats will continue to look furtively for more favorable winds, and the American public will continue to drown in the sea of failures. I'm all for cost savings, but not at the peril of my neighbors and not at the benefit of the superwealthy.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 29, 2011 9:32 AM:

    "This is why we are done with these assholes."

    Who is the "we" in the above?

  • stormskies on October 29, 2011 9:36 AM:

    What both SW and DisgustedWithItAll said .......

  • Ohio Rick on October 29, 2011 9:37 AM:

    Wait...you mean the Dems gave into far right wing nutbaggery before the haggling even began? Why, that's so unlike them.

  • hells littlest angel on October 29, 2011 9:42 AM:

    Disgusted: The only thing that will take place in Congress for the next year is campaigning. The question is which party is doing the better job of campaigning to be the majority party in 2013. I think the Democrats are doing a better job. Furthermore, I think tearing down the Democrats helps Republicans.

  • T2 on October 29, 2011 9:50 AM:

    The whole SuperC is a charade and time killer. Nothing will or could come from it. Congress will kill any "mandatory" cuts, saving the Military Industrial Complex and Rich people.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 29, 2011 9:52 AM:

    Hold on stormskies. I'm not really done with the Democrats as SW seems to be. Unless folks think there's going to be a complete rupture in the the political conditions in this country, being "done" with the Democrats is simply a recipe for complete Republicans takeover in 2012. That would be a fucking DISASTER. Back to the Gilded Age, if not back to the before the Enlightenment, would be the result.

    But what people need to understand is that this is the Republcans LAST CHANCE. Last chance to kill FDR, the New Deal, the Great Society, the EPA, and on and on. And that's why the Republicans are playing for keeps. They're not kidding about any of this shit. They're going to do it if they get the chance. It's their last chance because demographics is catching up with them, their lies on science will eventually catch up with them (those simply can't last forever), their dismissal of reason and economic rationality will catch up with them, etc.

    The left/progressives need to hang on and prevent a Republican takeover. That means Democrats need to win. Democrats at least have the right leanings, though it may be difficult to discern at times. But once the inequality concerns, the climate concerns, the economic concerns get taken to their proper roles -- and they will -- Democrats can be turned to the proper headings because they already are congenitally inclined (in a political sense) that way. They've just been having to work so long in the toxic stew of modern day money campaigning that those congenital leanings take a back seat.

  • KangarooJack on October 29, 2011 9:55 AM:

    "I am Jack's complete lack of surprise."

  • hells littlest angel on October 29, 2011 10:02 AM:

    Disgusted: From your post at 9:52, it appears we agree on far more than we disagree. I just really hate to see progressives piling on the Democratic party like a bunch of firebaggers. The Dems are imperfect, but they're what stands between us and some nightmarish CSA/Oceania/Mordor-on-the-Potomac

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 29, 2011 10:04 AM:

    @hell's: I'm not saying tear down the Democrats. In public, at least. (Read my later post.) I'm saying that patting them on the back, or indicating to Democrats that the current political and policy strategies are satisfactory is not acceptable. Those strategies are bone crushingly stupid. I get nauseated when I think about their cluelessness. The Democrats have been completely inept at messaging. They lose even when the public is on their side because Republicans make it so. How could it be that the current tactics being used by McConnell and Boehner have it so that the public supports Obama's economic initiatives individually and not the AJA? How could it be that the media continually tell the Republican story? It boggles the mind. The Democrats could take Albert Schweitzer and the Republicans could take Hitler or any other monster and after the parties got through the messaging campaigns the public would believe Hitler should be in charge of UNICEF. The Democrats are just that inept. And we need to let them know it's unacceptable they represent our views in such an incompetent, weak-kneed manner.

  • stormskies on October 29, 2011 10:09 AM:


    I actually agree with you. I am just not sure how "Democrats can be turned to the proper headings because they already are congenitally inclined (in a political sense) that way."

    And the only way we can be 'done' with the Democrats is either through a complete reformulation of what they have become, most of them anyway, back to what Democrats once were, and stood for, or the creation of a brand new political party which of course is not very likely at all. Teddy Roosevelt tried that because of conditions then which are some similar to what is happening now.

  • bdop4 on October 29, 2011 10:24 AM:

    There isn't a pooper scooper big enough to pick up this steaming pile of shit.

    If people don't know that republicans are unreasonable by now, they never will. Do the posters above really believe that making a lame attempt to show republicans as "unreasonable" outweighs GOING ON RECORD as proposing a $2 trillion in spending cuts in the middle of a fucking recession?

    I got a better idea: why don't Dems propose something THAT WILL ACTUALLY HELP PEOPLE?! I think they'll get a lot more mileage from that.

    This moronic attempt at 11th dimensional chess is like pissing into the wind.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 29, 2011 10:26 AM:


    - We can't "done" with the Democrats unless we're willing to accept the complete disaster of a Republicans takeover in 2012. Again, this is the Republicans' last chance to take us back to prehistoric times. To give them that their goals on a silver platter by being "done" with the Democrats because of our own irritation with Democrats would be a colossal blunder and relegate current day liberals/progressives to derision in history.

    - Getting Democrats to the proper headings requires work but not as much as I think many believe. I still believe Democrats' hearts are where they need to be. Modern day political survival keeps their actions and hearts from meeting. Unfortunately, the Democrats make that meeting more remote by their completely messaging. We need to let them know in no uncertain terms that their messaging is beyond fucking stupid.

    I've contacted many Democrats and told them they need a lot of help on this. And I'm not nice. I hope a lot more people do the same.

  • hells littlest angel on October 29, 2011 10:34 AM:

    Again, the "super-committee" is and always has been an exercise in bullshit. It was created as a way to get Republicans to momentarily stop being jerkoffs and vote to raise the debt ceiling. By January, it will be as gone as if it never existed.

    It is not worth getting riled over.

  • Roberta in MN on October 29, 2011 10:35 AM:

    This is so much crap. I hear a lot of complaining. If you want a democratic government then I suggest, you get out there and work your feet off registering voters and less bashing the President. He is only one person and one branch of this hell hole of a republican congress. I agree that the dems don't have his back all the time, but if the repubs get back into power think of THE SUPREME COURT appointments coming up.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 29, 2011 10:40 AM:

    @hell's: We disagree again.

    "It is not worth getting riled over."

    Yes, it is. It is a continuation of the idiocy of the debt ceiling fiasco in the summer, and of the ongoing, incessant Democratic incompetency.

    That needs to stop. And we need to let them know in no uncertain terms it needs to stop.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 29, 2011 10:42 AM:

    "...incessant Democratic messaging incompetency." is what I meant to say.

  • Rabbler on October 29, 2011 11:06 AM:

    How many times has Obama done the same thing?

  • Tom on October 29, 2011 11:25 AM:

    Right, the proposal of the Dem SuperC members is unacceptable. They are behind the wave.
    The wave is the energy being released by the Occupy movement. It could be enough to sweep Obama to victory and bring in a confident Democratic Congress, with a real mandate for change.
    The Democrats in Congress need to catch up. They need to try harder. They have to stop worrying about what the Washington Post says about them and worrying more about what the people in the street think about them. And we need to play hard to get.

  • HMDK on October 29, 2011 12:40 PM:

    There it is.
    Whenever the Democrats move right, there's always someone there, ready and willing to fluff 'em, by pointing out that the Republicans are worse and by calling dissenters suicidal naysayers. Some of this is true, but what is the point of holding on to a party because you identify with their ideals, when they time and again sell out those ideals. Sure, modern dems are better than modern reps. So?
    Doesn't change the fact that the ideals of modern dems are those of republicans of decades past, and that modern republicans are even more insane. When will the Democrats stop a holding action that has never worked?

  • TCinLA on October 29, 2011 12:43 PM:

    Has anyone else noticed that the "Democrats" on the so-called "super committee" are not now nor were they ever actual Democrats?

  • TCinLA on October 29, 2011 12:50 PM:

    Disgusted said:

    The left/progressives need to hang on and prevent a Republican takeover. That means Democrats need to win. Democrats at least have the right leanings, though it may be difficult to discern at times. But once the inequality concerns, the climate concerns, the economic concerns get taken to their proper roles -- and they will -- Democrats can be turned to the proper headings because they already are congenitally inclined (in a political sense) that way. They've just been having to work so long in the toxic stew of modern day money campaigning that those congenital leanings take a back seat.

    Absolutely fu*king right!!!!

  • KK on October 29, 2011 5:48 PM:

    Yes they were stupid to offer the deal. Keep in mind though, EVERY R voted for the Ryan plan. An actual vote to dismantle Medicare. The D's all voted against it, an actual vote not kill Medicare. This in the end will be what haunts the R morons.

  • Doug on October 29, 2011 8:18 PM:

    What I found most interesting is this throw-away line from the CBPP Report: "The new deficit-reduction plan from a MAJORITY of Democrats..."
    That such a proposal was made, even if only for the "optics", is pitiful. That the proposal wasn't unanimous is heartening, at least SOME Democratic politicians realize the time for "making nice" has passed.
    I've begun to look at President Obama's "bi-partisan" period, 2009-2010, in a slightly different light. I STILL think he was right to try and attract Republican support for the various legislative proposals that eventually were passed. Now, however, I'm starting to wonder if the talk about "bi-partisanship" that we heard so much of, wasn't mainly to distract from the important political activity that was taking place: Pelosi and Reid corraling enough Blue Dog and conserva-Dem support to allow the legislation to pass? While so many were focused on the President's "bi-partisanship" efforts, they may have missed a much more important story of HOW the Democratic votes were mustered by their respective caucus leaders.
    I do not now, nor ever have, believed in the efficacy of the "bully pulpit" as a GENERAL method of operation for ANY President. President Obama has consistently advocated for the same programs since he was elected, the difference NOW is that he is concentrating on ONE aspect of policy - jobs. There will be ramifications, of course, in other policy areas if the AJA should be passed, but the main effort is on pushing ONE particular point.
    Maybe THAT'S the problem with those Democrats on the commission, they just had too much to think about?
    //Yes, that last WAS snark//

  • Claessens1 on October 29, 2011 8:18 PM:

    I am 72 yrs. old and entering the last months of my life. I have completely given up on our political system. The global banking systems have completely taken over control of our government. And it is not just the Republicans. Look at the Wall St. types in the upper levels of the Administration.

    I see no way out of this without a constitutional amendment providing for public financing of all federal elections and another redistribution of seats in the Senate (why is North Dakota given as much weight as California? The historical reasons for this inequity are long-long past).

    As a political junkie I have shifted my attention to the OWS movement and listening to some of my favorite symphonies and to some new ones that I am not that familiar with. (I am still indebted to Mr. Benen and the folks at Daily Kos.) Eye-sight going fast. I hope this makes some sense. Congratulations to St. Louis and the Cardinals!

  • LA-CC on October 29, 2011 11:16 PM:

    The absurdity and absolute crying shame of it all makes me so depressed. How anyone has the heart to keep trying (like those participating in the #Occupy Anywhere movements is amazing. Maybe I'll feel stronger in the A.M. but right now I just don't know what to do with this grief.

  • Alfreda Weiss on October 30, 2011 4:00 PM:

    The Democrats on the committee and President Obama are wrecking havoc within the Democratic party with their cuts to entitlements. Will someone tell them they are not welcome at the Democratic conventions and please give them opposition in their next elections?

  • SW on October 30, 2011 7:58 PM:

    Who Is We? I would argue, the majority or the American people. The political system has lost legitimacy. This is a matter of justice. Directly traceable to the Obama administration's capture by Wall Street. Clearly evident by the number of indictments resulting from the greatest swindle in the history of modern economic crime. And the resulting avalanche of campaign contributions from Wall Street to the Obama campaign. And if the lack of Justice from this supposedly liberal administration means that folks have lost faith in the government what is the alternative? As has correctly been pointed out, the opposition doesn't even try to be coy about the fact that they are the agents of the malefactors of great wealth. So, the entire system has been captured. It is beyond redemption and there is no way to escape a bad outcome. Both sides are owned by the same forces. It is a silly good cop bad cop routine. Theatre for the rubes. Like championship wrestling. Like the globetrotters. Believe me I am sympathetic to those who rail against third party movements. That is not what I am talking about. I think the whole thing has to be taken apart. I agree that a third party run is counterproductive. What we need is a revolution. Ours is a revolutionary country. Our country institutionalizes revolution. We have two founding documents. The declaration of independence. And the Constitution. We need to to scrap everything else. Both of the current parties need to die. They are beyond redemption. They are faction. It isn't going to be easy. It isn't going to happen soon. But the current system is not sustainable.

  • Bill on October 31, 2011 12:01 PM:

    True... the proposal was way right of traditional Democratic values and the President is seen by some Dems as 'not liberal enough' after his first few years in office. However, we live in different times among extreme ideologues and the growing debt is something we need to address. As well, it's my belief that by showing... once again... it's the Democrats and the president that are willing to compromise*, we could actually move the ball forward on something and win over more Independent and moderate voters along the way.

    If Obama wins the upcoming election, he'll certainly be able to be more aggressive because he'll have history on his side. He will be able to say, quite truthfully, that he tried compromise... he tried working with Republicans... he bent over backwards... and Dems in Congress tried working with Republicans... they BOTH tried to find middle ground... and you know what... it didn't work. The Republican party is now controlled by far right ideologues that are beholden to corporate interests... focused on deconstructing regulations that protect citizens and blocking taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Now, me, the Dems, and reasonable Americans are going to move this country forward one way or another, so Republicans... get the F out of the way!! I think a lot of progressive and independent middle class voters would be inspired and show support. Voters are tired of gridlock and extreme ideologues - left and right.

    *Any compromise must include a minimum of increased tax revenue from those making over $1mil annually. I know the reported Dem offer cuts deep, but it also demonstrates to all Americans who's obstructing progress in our government. COMPROMISE and BALANCE.