The Man Has a Point

October 27th, 2011 at 5:22 pm

I haven’t written much on the deliberations of the Congressional super-committee developed as part of the Budget Control Act—you remember; 6 D’s, 6 R’s tasked with coming up with another $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.

They’re predictably stuck on revenue issues—D’s insist that revs be part of the package, as they must, R’s are resisting.  This article will bring you up to date, should you care to go there.

But aside from all the (very important) bean counting, here’s the thing that really caught me eye.

“Rep. Henry Waxman [D-CA]…represents those who are at wits’ end with the process.

The 36-year Washington veteran said he has “no stake” in the committee and called it an “outrageous process” that is “not open and transparent.” He said the “things put forward by Democrats … I would never vote for.”

“I find it an outrageous process, that 12 people could rewrite the laws of the United States and come up with ideas just sitting there and getting into some mood that might influence them at the moment,” Waxman said in an interview.

Waxman added, “They don’t lay out proposals for examinations. They don’t get direct input on ideas. They get a whole bunch of things from other people officially, who knows who unofficially, then they’re talking to themselves about a grand deal we won’t have a choice to discuss or amend. We’ll have to vote yes or no. That’s an offensive process.””

It’s easy to get swept up into the process of spending cuts and revenue fights—these are extremely important negotiations, and much depends on how the committee achieves the savings.

But it’s also easy to lose sight of the dysfunctionality underlying this process.  Of course, Congress will vote on the committee’s recommendations, if they get that far, and the President can veto, etc.  But Rep Waxman’s comments capture something fundamentally undemocratic about the process.

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13 comments in reply to "The Man Has a Point"

  1. Peggy says:

    better yet: “underlying dysfunctionality”

    Waxman sees it and so does Campus Progress:

    “… Super Committee members have at least one thing in common—they have allowed special interest influence to haunt their committee. … Politico reports that in the past six weeks, 200 companies and special interests have reported that they are lobbying Super Committee members. The Washington Post found that 100 former staffers for Super Committee members currently work as lobbyists. And according to the Huffington Post, half of the lawmakers on the Committee currently employ former lobbyists. The revolving door between Capitol Hill and K Street, while nothing new, has a magnified potential to distort policy given the amount of power wielded by these twelve members. …”

    • Fred Donaldson says:

      Yikes! We really need another Peterson committee to investigate how to lower taxes for hedge fund founders.

  2. CEK says:

    He is absolutely right. Establishing that committee was a way of looking like they were doing something while doing nothing. It was an abdication of their responsibilities. Congress is supposed to make the laws, not delegate some committee to make the laws. It will have no more effect than that silly deficit commission. That was a dumb idea.

    If congress doesn’t like what come out of this, it will change it or ignore it, regardless of any previous statement to the contrary.

    • Daryl says:

      This is exactly the point. Not only is Congress not doing anything but they have appointed a “Super Committee” for not doing anything. How is anyone supposed to take these people seriously?

  3. bloodnok says:

    please address the notion of restoring the tax rates to the level they were at during the clinton administration, not just for the 1% but for all of us. why is this off the table?

    • Chigliakus says:

      Unfortunately I think that’s the best possible outcome we can hope for from this Super Committee–gridlock causing failure to reach a deal and then the defult expiration of the Bush tax cuts. Any deal reached with the Republicans is going to be very bad for approximately 99% of the American people.

  4. perplexed says:

    I wholeheartedly concur with Waxman’s sense of outrage, but maybe its time we dropped any pretense of “democratic outcomes” until we’re willing to secure that our legislature is truly representative. Until Americans understand that “true representation” is as fundamental to “democratic outcomes” as true random sampling is to statistical inference, we have little hope of achieving “democratic outcomes.” We can’t have a minority pre-selecting our choices for representatives by controlling campaign funding and also have “democratic” outcomes any more than you can select a biased sample and extrapolate the results you get to the larger population. Garbage in, garbage out; there’s no meaningful connection between the legislature we have and “democratic outcomes.” Unfortunately, just like Obama’s mini-stimulus is being used as an example of why “Keynesian stimulus” doesn’t work, what we’ve got going on here will someday be used as an example of why “democracies” don’t work. Neither example stands up to any logical scrutiny, but that doesn’t prevent it from being misused.

  5. the buckaroo says:

    …there was a day in the history of the Congress when brains had at least an equal show with cowardice.

  6. Kenyon Wells says:

    I’m surprised no one has challenged, from the right or the left, the constitutionality of this “super committee” process.

  7. Michael says:

    The problem is that Republicans want to burn this country down as punishment for electing a black man, and the corporate media is complicit. I don’t see what to do at that point.

  8. Carol says:

    “But Rep Waxman’s comments capture something fundamentally undemocratic about the process.”

    It’s not just the super secret committee that’s fundamentally undemocratic. Our entire government has devolved into a fundamentally undemocratic system.

    • perplexed says:

      Not so much “devolved” as “has been sold to the highest bidder.” Devolved could be constued to be a natural phenomenon of some sort.