They didn't even come close.
The 12-man bipartisan "super commission" that was supposed to find a compromise and develop a plan to reduce the nation's $15 trillion debt by $1.2 trillion over the next ten years, fell victim to intransigent party ideologies and political gamesmanship.
Actually solving the nation's problems seemed low on the list of priorities. They'd need a dictionary to find out what the word "compromise" means. And even then, they probably wouldn't understand the concept. The word appears to have been relegated to the dustbin of political history.
Congress -- and the president -- are too focused on next year's election, where both sides expect to win big. That would allow the winner to, hopefully, steamroll over the opposition so a middle-ground compromise isn't needed. Any hope of the commission actually finding a solution was doomed from the start. And the members of this commission were, theoretically, some of the best and brightest their parties could put forward.
The debt and jobs are the campaign issues the parties have hung their hats on, so there is no reason for them to actually do anything between now and the election. They're leaving it up to the voters because they can't do the jobs they were elected to do. So count on the fact that nothing, on either issue, will get done until a new Congress is sworn in in January 2013. With any luck, very few of the existing members of Congress will be there then.
These guys simply do not understand the intense "throw all the bums out" frustration the American people have with the total and abject failure to do their jobs.
It's interesting to note that all the disastrous cuts this failure will automatically trigger won't go into effect until after next fall's election. Congress has made sure the voters won't feel any actual pain until after they've been re-elected. Sadly, most of them will be re-elected.
This whole mess was created when a standard procedure, raising the debt ceiling (something that was done 17 times during Reagan's administration alone), was turned into a dogfight by Tea Party Republicans who wanted to score points. By blocking the increase, they held the nation hostage, cost the government its top bond rating, threw the American and world economic markets into a tailspin, and forced the super commission compromise just to get everything working again and avoid economic armageddon. That deal said if the commission and Congress couldn't agree on debt reduction by this week, federal programs would be automatically slashed (in 2013). They deliberately chose programs that would truly hurt -- with the defense department taking almost half of the hits. That was the incentive to make it work.
Yet, strangely, last Friday the government needed to raise the debt ceiling again. Quietly, without any fanfare, they did so. Nobody wanted to go to the brink again, even as they knew the supercommission was on the brink of failure. And now, they're all talking about ways to rescind most of the cuts mandated by the original deal.
There is no question this issue must be addressed. It can only be solved by both finding ways to increase revenue, and the rich seem capable of paying far more than the struggling middle class, and by also making changes to entitlement programs that reduced standing costs. In addition, Congress needs to look at a massive rewrite of the tax code and a re-evaluation of the need for every government program.
That's a tall order, and it will take people willing to stand tall to make it work.
But where giants are needed, we appear to have dwarfs debating dogma.
Hopefully, we'll survive until 2013, and the (hopefully) new leaders of our nation will understand that compromise isn't a dirty word.