I knew well before Monday's announcement that no deal would be reached by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, more familiarly known as the "super committee." It's the committee of six Democrats and six Republicans from both houses of Congress charged with developing a $1.3-trillion deficit reduction measure.
Of course, both the Democrats and Republicans are blaming the other side for the impasse. The interesting thing is that both are right, which hasn't been the case in Washington for quite some time.
The automatic $1.3 trillion in across-the-board cuts that are supposed to go into effect as a result of the lack of an agreement will absolutely devastate some essential programs like defense. That's why many held out hope that something would be done. But, the reality is that the cuts will never happen (they don't go into effect until after the 2012 election); all of this is still posturing.
Democrats refuse to entertain serious efforts to rein in entitlement spending, which means spending will continue to explode.
Meanwhile, Republicans refuse to entertain raising taxes, given the state of the economy. Both sides are pandering to their constituents for the elections next November.
But that election will pass, and the balance of power will either remain with the Democrats or shift to the Republicans. Either way, however, they won't be posturing once the election is over; they will need to produce and the looming cuts will be a pretty good incentive.
There was a lot of talk about how Standard & Poor's announced it doesn't plan to downgrade the nation's credit rating as a result of the impasse. There's also been a lot of talk about the severe reaction by the market. But, these are classic red herrings, as no one expected a downgrade and few expected a substantive deal.
In fact, real cuts from a government that's proven itself unable to wean itself of spending money it doesn't have is probably vastly superior to the smoke and mirrors that usually emerges from these kinds of talks. In the initial budget debates, the Republicans were accused by Democrats of being heartless, while trying to claim for themselves the mantle of fiscal prudence. But, the reality was that the cuts being assailed as "draconian" weren't even true cuts, but merely decreases in the proposed growth.
Just because the president and Congress can't get serious about getting our fiscal house in order, doesn't mean the problem isn't serious, however. We must reduce spending, as we can't continue to mortgage our children's future. Just ask Italy, Spain, Greece or the Soviet Union how the bill ultimately comes due.
The reality is that the super committee's failure actually means we probably will get some real spending cuts. And, since across-the-board cuts aren't what anyone really wants, we just may actually have a chance to move beyond the election posturing and do something substantive.