The supercommittee’s real failure

Yesterday, the congressional supercommittee announced that it failed to come to an agreement to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years. The committee’s failure automatically triggers $1.2 trillion in cuts to domestic and defense spending starting in 2013, along with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. The failure of the committee is no surprise to observers, given the failure of past commissions, negotiations, and various other initiatives. This is especially true since congressional Republicans continue to rule out reversing Bush-era tax cuts for high-income individuals, effectively insisting that the burden of deficit reduction be borne primarily by low- and moderate-income Americans.

The commission has not only failed to address medium-term deficits, but it has passed up an opportunity to address the immediate crisis: jobs. With unemployment and underemployment remaining high and job creation remaining weak, we cannot continue to let the wounds to the labor markets fester.

Looking forward, Congress needs to immediately turn to jobs. This means continuing emergency measures to boost consumer demand by extending support for unemployed workers and preserving tax cuts targeted to low-income taxpayers (by extending the payroll tax holiday or enacting a more targeted credit). It also means providing federal assistance to prevent further pullbacks by state and local governments. Finally, this means investing in America’s future by boosting infrastructure spending, supporting our children’s education, and creating work opportunities for all.

Congress can still address the jobs crisis, and should do so immediately.

From left, supercommittee members Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). (Image from Flickr Creative Commons by sunlightfoundation)