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No Super Committee Deal. Good. Now Focus On Jobs—Best Way To Lower Deficit

November 22nd, 2011 | Roger Hickey

Roger HickeyThe reason members of the Super Committee didn’t reach an agreement is that Republican members insisted on damaging cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicare – AND they wouldn’t budge from their refusal to roll back tax cuts for the richest 1% of Americans.

If the so-called “Super Committee” had made a bi-partisan deal based on the announced negotiating positions of the Republicans and Democrats on that panel, the result would have been higher unemployment, serious damage to the social safety net — and worsening deficits.

Super Committee Democrats, concerned about being seen as blocking a deal, clearly offered Social Security and Medicare benefit cuts in return for a pitifully small increase in taxes and large and damaging spending cuts in the middle of a struggling economy.

The deal on the table – whose failure is much lamented by beltway pundits – would have seriously harmed the economy, without significantly reducing deficits. In fact, it might have made it worse.
Luckily, the progressive base – and the Democratic Caucus in the House and Senate – convinced those negotiators that a bad deal is worse than no deal.

Democrats should have been guided by the message of the September 6th press conference at which Super Committee appointee Rep. Chris Van Hollen, standing with former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, declared “Job growth will contribute to deficit reduction,” according to the Washington Post coverage:

Van Hollen, who made the remarks at a news conference with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and other members of the Democratic leadership, argued that the most recent Congressional Budget Office report states that for every 1/10 of one percentage point increase in the U.S. gross domestic product, the deficit is reduced by $310 billion.

“Now, they project over the next 10 years that average GDP, average growth of the economy will be about 2.9 percent,” he said. “What those numbers tell you is that if you got that growth rate up by half of one percent, you would actually reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion, which is the target laid out in the legislation before us.”

Clearly, this is what all progressives believe: the weak economy should not be allowed to fall backward into another recession – which could happen if we cut spending too fast or too deeply. And action to get the economy growing robustly would be the most effective thing we could do to bring down the Federal deficit.

Progressives will therefore push for public investment to create jobs and create consumer demand, which is the missing factor preventing American business from investing in expanded production and growing employment. All of the elements of President Obama’s American Jobs Act should now be taken up by everyone in Congress who professes to be concerned about the deficit. As progressives, we will work with our allies and partners in the American Dream movement to push for extended unemployment benefits and other stimulus spending programs that both Democrats and Republicans have supported in the past.

In this post-Super Committee period, you can be sure that the Campaign for America’s Future will be fighting for policies that will spur growth and create enough jobs to bring down our chronically high unemployment. We will fight to get Congress to let the Bush tax cuts for the 1% expire. We will fight for reductions in the military budget. And we will remind all Americans that job creation (and long term health reform to control health costs) are the most effective things we can do to reduce the deficit.

This post originally appeared in Campaign for America’s Future on November 21, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Roger Hickey is Co-Director of the Campaign for America’s Future. He was also one of the founders of Health Care for America Now!, a coalition of over 1,000 national and local organizations united to achieve quality affordable health care for all. He was also one of the leaders of the successful campaign to stop the privatization of Social Security, called Americans United to Protect Social Security. Hickey was a founder and Communications Director of the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank that looks at economics from the point of view of working Americans. He was also a founder of the Public Media Center in San Francisco. A graduate of the University of Virginia, Hickey began his career in the 1960s as an organizer for the Virginia Civil Rights Committee.

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