At an impasse in the debate over whether or not to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell commission that could fast track such issues into law. Called a “Super Committee” by some in Capitol Hill and a “Super Congress” by everybody else that’s completely scared shitless by the idea, it would allow 12 select members of Congress to usher bills through the legislative branch on a simple up-or-down vote. A simple majority vote of seven would put it before the entire Senate and House, where elected officials would not be permitted to amend or even debate the bill in question.
If the American public were aware of its implications, mass unrest would surely pulsate throughout the country. Though it may initially invoke images of the lamest superhero group ever, the Super Congress would be of a far more sinister nature. Kinda like the Legion of Doom, except every member would be Lex Luthor. With its constitutionality undoubtedly suspect, it poses a grave threat to American democracy as we know it.
Saddest of all, this dubious proposal is one of the few issues on which Democrats and Republicans can even agree. Even though each party would comprise one half of the Super Congress and each chamber would also be equally represented, most of the political left and right are outspoken in their condemnation of the plan. Of course, their opposition stems from fear of the other side getting the last laugh. “Any plan that includes a backdoor to cut [Social Security and Medicare] is just as unacceptable as one that puts the cuts up front,” asserted Justin Ruben of liberal group Moveon.org. Meanwhile, a Tea Party alliance named The Cut, Cap and Balance Coalition released a statement in which it argued that “history has shown that such commissions, while well-intentioned, make it easier to raise taxes than to institute enduring budget reforms.” Both camps resist a Super Congress not on principle, but because they are not convinced that it would be tactically convenient to their priorities. What does it say about the state of our republic when the only matter the two major parties can agree on is subversion of democracy and equitably distributed power grabs? Probably “business as usual.”
With the August 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling fast approaching, Obama and the Democrats are jockeying with the GOP to secure a bill that will accomplish this goal before the United States defaults on its loans and catastrophe ensues (or so we’re told). Speaker Boehner and Congressional Republicans demand that the ballooning federal deficit be paid down via budget cuts to social services as a condition of the debt ceiling being lifted. A balanced budget amendment is included in discussions too. The President and his allies insist that tax increases on the wealthy should help pay down the debt, but the very idea is anathema to conservative antitax ideology. Both sides claim that their plans will deplete the deficit over the next decade by amounts ranging widely from $915 billion to over $2 trillion (every news account I’ve read seemingly cites a different estimate).
Yet getting lost in the shuffle is the Super Congress scheme. The Los Angeles Times described negotiations as being “focused on several proposals for elaborate ‘trigger’ mechanisms that would try to guarantee that additional deficit-reduction measures would be voted on, but would not hold the debt ceiling hostage to those votes.” Apparently, The Times views elected officials duly serving the interests of their constituents as outlined by the US Constitution as not mere obstructers; they’re holding bills captive against their will! And the Super Congress is portrayed in Orwellian jargon as the “trigger mechanism” that will save the poor helpless legislation from the torment of public accountability. The only thing actually being tortured in this scenario is the logic employed by The Times.
Few media outlets are covering the Super Congress proposal, most likely because they take the same stance as The LA Times. Even when mentioned, the Super Congress is usually couched in euphemistic language intended to obscure the issue and mislead the reader, as evidenced by The Times’ coverage. Even the President is remaining mum on the Super Congress. However, his probable toleration was hinted at by senior advisor David Plouffe. In reference to the parallels between Boehner and Reid’s plans (one of which is the Super Congress), he cryptically remarked that “you can see the zone of compromise here.” If Obama obtains adequate revenue concessions and a workable deal with the GOP, don’t expect a veto.
With the clock ticking away towards economic atrophy, Washington lawmakers are willing to trade away the rule of the people for the ascendency of an oligarchic committee whose judgment supersedes popular will. Of course, one may argue forever and onward that this nation is already ruled by a shadowy cabal of business leaders, socialists, media honchos, the Stone Masons, the Illuminati, the Chinese, the Jews (no paranoiac conspiracy theory would be complete without the Jews), etc. But here, in plain view, a clique of politicians selected by other lawmakers would virtually dictate the affairs of an entire branch of our government. Democracy may be messy, but greasing its wheels for expected efficiency will send us all sliding into authoritarianism. The journey into despotism always begins with a consolidation of power by the few at the expense of the many.
Every American should denounce the Super Congress and demand its removal from all future deliberations. Ironically, the fact that the parties can agree on little else except for the Super Congress is an argument in favor of it. We as a nation are trading political paralysis for effectual tyranny. Hey, Mussolini guaranteed that the trains would run on time, right? The Super Congress will be our equivalent; Instead of Il Duce, we get Il Douches.
So let’s just accept the loss of our freedoms and try to make the best of it. Not all Guardian Councils are predatory institutions, afterall. Perhaps we’ll luck out and the Super Congress will be nothing more than an assemblage of wise elders who make sure that we are excellent to each other:
Either way, no other fascist hand gesture can compete with the awesomeness of air guitar strumming. Party on, Super Congress!
The Super Congress, along with cuts to vital social programs, continued profligate military expenditures and zero tax increases on the wealthiest Americans, was signed into law by President Obama today. No, it is indeed not the Gang of Six multiplied. More like the Gang of Sucks. Obama refused to utilize the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which, after sanctioning the citizenship of former slaves, clearly states that “the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law… shall not be questioned.” He capitulated to Republican demands and refused to issue an executive order raising the debt ceiling, which would have bypassed Congressional obstructionists. Now, there may seem to be a contradiction between my stance on the concentrated powers of a Super Congress and the unilateral actions of the executive branch. The chief difference is that the President was elected by voters nationwide and this power is constitutionally valid; the Super Congress, on the other hand, grants unprecedented clout to a cadre of legislators elected only in their states/districts and is neither explicitly nor implicitly permitted in the Constitution. Besides, if the Super Congress cannot strike a deal before the end of the year, cuts to entitlement programs and defense spending will automatically go into effect. Yet another incentive for the GOP to delay or resist action. If they sit on their hands, they get what they want anyways (a bill that strictly protects military funding will no doubt be passed separately).
I have never been one to preach the doom & gloom scenarios of the end of the American Empire. Until now. But it has become clear to me that as a nation we are skidding inexorably into the abyss. The politicians, business leaders, religious leaders, and even the very citizenry itself have given up on the promise of America and its ideals. History is cyclical. This country reached its peak in 1945 (by default; Europe was in no condition to compete with us militarily, economically or politically and China was mired in civil war) and began its decline as the war in Vietnam escalated. We have regressed to the point that 2011 resembles the late 19th Century: extreme wealth inequalities, monopolistic robber barons and a desire to colonize the world. Is another Civil War in our future? And even more disconcerting, will we lapse further until a palpable yearning for monarchial control pervades our social fabric?
The house is on fire. The fire department is derelict in its duties and your neighbors are unwilling to spare their water in order to extinguish the flames. Might as well strip it of copper wiring and make off with everything not bolted down before this once-mighty mansion inevitably collapses into a heap of smoldering rubble.