Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, and if you're like me, you're busy stocking up on sweet potatoes and merely hoping to survive the family gathering. As such, you may have missed the totally predictable yet still shocking news: Our national debt just exceeded $15 trillion.
For most New Yorkers, this amounts to another gloomy milestone reached by the National Debt Clock on 6th Avenue, which ticks away at an unforgiving pace and mockingly calculates “your family share.”
But for a certain group of Washington lawmakers — the 12 congressmen in the bipartisan supercommittee tasked with finding $1.5 trillion in savings over 10 years — this milestone carries a bit more weight.
Created during this summer’s contentious debt-ceiling debate, the supercommittee has only five days to present its deficit reduction plan to Congress. If the committee fails to reach an agreement before Nov. 23 — or if Congress fails to approve its recommendations by Dec. 23 — automatic spending cuts go into effect beginning in 2013.
Of those automatic cuts, $500 billion would come from our military. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned that these cuts would be devastating and would cripple our defense capabilities.
One might think that the supercommittee could avoid this catastrophe and identify $1.5 trillion in cuts over the next decade, especially considering our debt has ballooned by $4 trillion under President Obama alone. But according to the many reports of congressional gridlock, one would be mistaken.
What’s more sobering is that even in the best-case scenario, where the supercommittee meets its $1.5 trillion mark, an American debt crisis would still not be averted. Why? Because the committee’s mandate was inadequate from the outset.
As Sen. Jim DeMint recently noted in the National Review, the committee endeavors only to slow down our country’s descent into bankruptcy. And according to DeMint, in lieu of swelling the national debt to $23.4 trillion by 2021, the supercommittee aspires only to inappreciably lower it to $21.3 trillion.
Here’s the frightening truth my friends: Congress may be incapable of seriously addressing our spending and debt crisis.
Consider this — not only did we fail to reduce spending in 2011, but by spending $3.6 trillion, we actually set a new record. The 2010 election, the conservative surge, and all the talk of fiscal austerity, looks more like a dog and pony show each day.
And now, after months of meetings and discussions, Congress has once again failed to adequately address this crisis and put America back on sound fiscal footing. We need a bold supercommittee plan that reforms entitlements while rejecting tax hikes.
True to form, Democrats are offering no such plan, adamantly opposing cuts in entitlement programs unless the deal includes at least $1 trillion in higher income taxes, mostly on the wealthy.
This is not only unjust, considering that the top 10 percent of earners already pay 70 percent of federal income taxes, but it’s also ineffective. If history has taught us anything, it’s that tax hikes are used for new spending, not for deficit reduction.
And while the latest Republican proposals don't include trillion dollar tax hikes, they do call for tax increases of $300 billion over the coming decade, along with some reductions in entitlement spending.
It’s easy to understand why the GOP is breaking its core promise to voters by proposing tax hikes. A supercommittee deal is attractive, as it would invalidate President Obama’s re-election strategy of attacking a “do-nothing” Congress. This would force the president to run on his economic record.
A deal would also prevent the tax hike that would occur if President Obama was re-elected and the Bush tax cuts were allowed to expire. Furthermore, with approval ratings at an all-time low, and the 2012 election season near, Congress is desperate to show the public that it’s capable of doing its job.
The Heritage Foundation reports that by 2049, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will devour all tax revenues. That should give every American pause.
We need to think long and hard about what type of country we want America to be. With the national debt relentlessly ticking forward, the supercommittee must make tough decisions now or we will face a fate similar to Greece.
Mahsa Saeidi-Azcué is a Fox News and MSNBC commentator, and a former assistant district attorney from Brooklyn, N.Y.
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