As we countdown to Thanksgiving, we are also counting down, of course, on the deficit supercommittee’s search for a compromise that will allow them to avoid mandatory budget cuts, set to kick in if the committee fails. So far, the build-up is following the same dismal story-line of the debt ceiling debate, where the two sides decided to kick the can to this new special committee. The reports give little reason for optimism. Even those who might venture away from their orthodoxy and embrace new revenues or entitlement cuts have little incentive to do so, since the overall Congress, heading into an election year, seems hardened in their respective corners and won’t vote for a bill if it includes one or the other. The result is likely to be some sort of legislative cop-out that keeps delaying the reckoning. Such a result will further damage Congress in the eyes of the voters, and the United States in the eyes of the world.
This whole spectacle is like a mad version of the tragedy of the commons. That theory holds that individuals who, acting rationally in their own interest, seek to maximize their return on a common resource eventually destroy that resource. This often happens in Congress — members vote their individual interest over the national interest. The difference is this time the stakes are so high — watch the markets if the supercommittee fails. Watch the credit agencies. Watch the incumbents’ favorable ratings.
Both sides will try to spin this fiasco to their advantage. My guess is the American family won’t buy either side’s argument and will be left with a stronger impression than ever that our government can’t solve our problems. All this will be discussed across America on a day that celebrates a feast between natural enemies, who, for a day at least, remembered the great land they both shared.