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On Supercommittee, Great Power Does Not Mean Great Responsibility

The twelve members of President Obama’s supercommittee on deficit reduction are open for business. Do you have piles of cash and an interest in making sure that the “wrong” federal programs don’t get cut?  The cash windows are open, and operators are standing by.

…at least nine members of the 12-member supercommittee…have scheduled fundraisers this fall, putting them in a position to take money from industry donors at the same time they are helping to decide what to cut from government spending.

The unusually powerful committee, comprising six Democrats and six Republicans from both chambers of Congress, is tasked with finding up to $1.5 trillion in budget cuts over 10 years by Thanksgiving…

The scale of the cuts has set off a frenzy among lobbyists on K Street, including nearly 100 identified by The Washington Post as former employees of supercommittee members.

But that’s not all. Not only will various PACs and businesses be able to buy a little influence on the supercommittee (what a great term, by the way), they’ll be able to keep it secret until after the cuts have been declared.

Bill Allison, editorial director at the Sunlight Foundation, noted that contributions given during the time the supercommittee is meeting will not be disclosed to the Federal Election Commission until January — well after a final decision is made.

The founding fathers believed that a certain amount of civic virtue and self restraint was necessary to make the republican form of government work.  George Washington would have made these hacks feel two inches tall by the time he got through telling the country what he thought of this outrageous behavior.  Thomas Jefferson would have run for the hills expecting the dissolution of the republic any day.  Andrew Jackson would have caned them in the street. (Duels were reserved for the honorable; poltroons get the cane.)

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  • Corlyss

    What was wrong with Joint Committee? Supercommittee is not super in any way that Superman is super except that both their powers are fictional.

  • John Burke

    Or a horsewhip. Poltroons get the horsewhip.

  • “The founding fathers believed that a certain amount of civic virtue and SELF-restraint was necessary to make the republican form of government work.”

    The reason I capitalized your word “self” is because that’s basically also been my impression of the founders’ views. So maybe I’m not completely crazy. Or, then again, maybe you are too, Professor Mead. Certainly, if I’m to believe some recent fashionable interpretations – or is it caricatures? – of Madison’s political ethics, there can only be ONE acceptable check on a man’s unbridled public ambition: namely, a check and (counter-)balance of equally inordinate ambition on the part of another jerk – er, man. Which ethos, generously applied to most every category of healthy citizen without prejudice to age, sex, intelligence or education – “Hell, I’m every bit as good as you (and better)!” – can only have, I imagine, a most wonderfully lowering and brutalizing effect on the moral tone of any civilized country. And not least on its ability to engage trust and co-operation against a common threat. So what is likely to emerge when Power, at any level of society, becomes less and less able or willing to check ITSELF? – if not the supreme opportunity for some sort of Hobbesian Leviathan? Or am I missing something here?

  • Jim.

    Worse yet — Obama is proposing piling another $300-$450 billion onto this Supercommittee, to pay for his “new” jobs ideas.

    What happened to not kicking the can down the road?

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