Doomsday is coming, and no, this isn't something to do with the Mayan calendar or some wacky preacher's interpretation of "signs" in the Bible.
The Joint Congressional Committee, also known as the debt commission, is tasked with finding $1.2 trillion or more in deficit reduction funds over the next ten years, roughly 1 percent per year of the actual national debt. As part of the deal cut when Congress artificially created the debt crisis a couple months ago, which led to a reduction in the bond rating for the U.S., the commission has until Nov. 25 to present a plan for an up or down vote to Congress.
If the plan is not presented and/or Congress does not approve it, an automatic series of cuts go into effect -- including half a trillion dollars in cuts to the Department of Defense, which will bear the main brunt of the reduction. That will cripple our military and our current operations and lead to the famous "hollow force" last seen in the late 1970s.
There are two ways to achieve the debt reduction goal. One is to raise extra revenue, either by raising taxes on some or all of the taxpayers in this country (the richest 1 percent currently are the target for proponents of this option), or Congress can cut spending, which has historically been next to impossible for it to actually do.
But when the commission met, Democrats promptly announced that they wouldn't consider cuts in entitlement programs, such as Social Security, which are a huge federal expenditure, and Republican leaders on the commission said they wouldn't consider raising taxes by any means. This does not bode well for a compromise, which is what they were supposed to do, and as the deadline looms they still don't have a plan. If, in fact, they throw one together at the last minute, it certainly won't give Congress time to actually study and analyze it. Somewhat like Obamacare, they'll be asked to pass it and read it later.
Much of this ground already was covered by the president's bipartisan debt commission earlier this year. Congress wouldn't even look at that plan, which Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson helped put together, or the subsequent "Gang of Six" bipartisan plan that Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo worked on. These were good, workable plans that called for cuts in spending, a remodeling of entitlement programs and increases in revenue, much of it through a much-needed rewrite of the federal tax code.
Last week, Simpson was one of the leaders of an effort that got 100 members of the House of Representatives -- both Democrats and Republicans, conservatives, moderates and liberals -- to sign a petition demanding that the current debt commission put "everything... on the table and (that) the goal should be closer to $4 trillion rather than the $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction required under the Budget Control Act."
Simpson's efforts should be commended. What the letter said should be taken to heart by the bipartisan panel.
But, in a sign of the coming apocalypse, it should be noted that he and his fellow leaders of this effort couldn't even get a full quarter of the House of Representatives to sign off on the petition. The signatories to that letter represent the more reasonable and intelligent members of the House. But three quarters of the House doesn't seem to share those qualities. And much the same can be said for the Senate.
The coming mandated cuts, which will occur when the debt commission almost assuredly fails, are the fiscal equivalent of a meat ax where a scalpel is needed. It will be a disaster, and for those of us who care about the military, it will go beyond that.
If we had more people in Congress like Simpson and Crapo, we wouldn't be in this mess. Unfortunately, we don't, and a year from now, with any luck, the majority of those responsible will be gone and some saner heads will take their place.
But don't count on it. Sanity rarely rules when doomsday is underway.