Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Far from Super

FailureWell, everybody’s disappointed in the “super committee” it seems. This despite the fact that most appear never to have held out much hope to start with that the sucker would produce anything, anyway.

Yesterday the specially-appointed, 12-member bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction announced it had been unable to complete its charge to issue a recommendation for reducing the nation’s deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next ten years. (They’d started out talking about $1.5 trillion, but scaled that back.) Apparently the group of senators and representatives were still meeting as late as yesterday, leading some to think they may in fact come through with legislation that would then be voted on by the House and Senate. But alas, they did not.

Not even taking an “incomplete” here, to draw a campus-related analogy. No, this is “withdraw/failing.”

If I am not mistaken, now that the “super committee” has failed, “automatic” budget cuts will start happening -- including cuts to defense spending -- although they don't start up until 2013. Meaning Congress can still step in to change their minds on that, too. As Sen. John McCain has said, “Congress is not bound by this. It’s something we passed. We can reverse it.”

Such is the life of the rule-makers. You can withdraw with a failing grade. But you can keep retaking the course, too, as long as you keep your seat.

When the “super committee” was first created by in August -- a consequence of that debt ceiling crisis from the summer -- there had been some talk that a provision to license and regulate online poker as a new revenue source might pop up as part of the recommendation the group would be making. Last week’s leaked story that Sen. Harry Reid and Sen. Jon Kyl are perhaps looking to co-sponsor some sort of online poker legislation faintly revived that hope once again for some, as Kyl was on the Joint Select Committee and Reid had appointed the three Democratic senators who served.

But all of the commentary this morning seems to indicate that the “super committee” was a doomed enterprise all along. And some are connecting its failure to come to terms with a larger one characterizing the U.S. 112th Congress.

Wendy Schiller, an Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Brown University, told CNN today that the committee’s failure was not just theirs -- apparently they’d tried to cut deals with others in Congress to get something together, “but were rebuffed by their party leaders” -- but a “failure of political leadership on both sides of the partisan aisle.”

“Both parties chose their own electoral livelihoods over the good of the country, and it is outright shameful,” added Schiller. “This might be the most self-serving, mediocre, and uncaring set of legislators in Congress in the last 50 years.”

Schiller suggests that the current Congress is perhaps unique in the extent of its self-interestedness and collective failure to lead. But we know that when it comes to legislating online gambling in the U.S., every action made in the past -- on the state or federal level -- has been “self-serving” to the legislators who made it. As such will be the case for whatever comes next, if anything.

Meanwhile, as citizens with a desire to play our favorite card game against each other online, we just have to hope what serves the political interests of our overlords happens to overlap a little with what serves our own.

Sure, they represent us in theory. But in practice the arrangement is not so super.

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