The two political factions that made up the so-called Super Committee have declared failure and retreated to their favorite D.C. watering holes.
No doubt some fine single-malt Scotch awaits all of them, courtesy of the well-heeled lobbyists who own them and eventually will employ them after they finish pretending to do the public’s business. For the past three months, these jokers have put on a good show, if your idea of entertainment is watching two drunks at a poker game raising each other into the wee hours using markers they can never redeem.
The grand compromise we all were waiting for was already on the table before the Super Committee convened for its first meeting in August. It was served up more than a year ago by the non-partisan Bowles-Simpson Commission and promptly declared dead on arrival in Congress.
If anybody out there actually believed a joint committee of Congress — evenly divided between the two major parties — would take Bowles-Simpson’s work and chisel it into legislation in less than 90 days, please raise your hand. Now raise your other hand so we can slide the straight jacket into place before you hurt yourself.
There never was going to be a deal. The summer’s debt-ceiling ruckus and this fall’s Super Committee non-negotiations were simply the overture to next year’s national political war.
The battle lines are drawn. One side will tell us to vote for them or the U.S. military will be smaller than Denmark’s. The other will tell us to vote for them or the retirement age goes up to 90. They’ll both tell us the additional revenue that needs to be raised to cover $15 trillion in debt will come out of somebody else’s pocket. They will all be lying.
No doubt there are some folks in Europe who are breathing a sigh of relief as they watch the latest fiasco unfold in Washington. Now they can blame the Americans for sending what’s left of the global financial system into the abyss before they could do it themselves. Hard to argue with that when the only new products we’ve invented, mass-produced in America and peddled successfully to a global market in the past 10 years are synthetic collateralized debt obligations backed by credit default swaps and $2 trillion in bad mortgages. Derivatives? We’ve got an app for that.
So it looks like there’s nothing left to do but lay in a 12-month supply of Doritos and watch the big political fight. In January 2013, the new government will pick up where the old one left off, with the same people on K Street in charge.
Unless, of course, we remember that the House of Representatives is not the government of the United States. Neither is the U.S. Senate, or the president. Like it says in that worn-out history book the junior-high scholars will leave in their lockers during the turkey break, the American people are the government of the United States.
If we want to, we can start governing tomorrow. Here’s how:
We can circulate a petition to recall the entire Congress. If we take this process online, we should be able to gather at least 80 million signatures by the end of the month. The current approval rating for the U.S. Congress is 7 percent and dropping fast. Only Jerry Sandusky is polling lower, and there are still some precincts to be counted.
We can tell all the incumbents they won’t be welcome on the ballot when we elect the new Congress on Jan. 2. We can also tell anyone who wants to run for Congress in this special election they’ll have to adhere to the following requirements:
— Their salaries in the new Congress will be set at the same level as the average annual wage in the United States, to be adjusted as that average rises (or falls).
— They will receive the same health insurance that is provided to cashiers at Wal-Mart.
— They won’t be permitted to take a dime from anyone. Their campaign expenses will be reimbursed at $0.41/per mile by the U.S. Treasury, with a limit of 1,000 miles per candidate (with the exception of candidates in Texas and California, who will get 1,500 miles). And yes, toll receipts must be submitted before payment.
— For five days each week, they will be sequestered in the Capitol Building until they agree on a path to balance the federal budget, retire the national debt and create 25 million new jobs. On Saturdays, they will listen to voicemail messages from their constituents and respond to email messages from their constituents.
— All Congressional hearings will be held in public and televised. These hearings will be carried on C-Span or will preempt all Desperate Housewives and CSI programming on other channels. Before voting on any bill, every member of Congress must post a web video of themselves reading each bill out loud.
— Members of Congress will not be permitted to post tweets on Twitter unless they actually write them. They can only tweet after they personally have answered all email messages from constituents. Violations will be punishable by up to five years in a federal penitentiary in which the only reading material is a collection of books written by Donald Trump.
— After leaving Congress, former Representatives and Senators will not be permitted to re-enter the District of Columbia or communicate in any form with a sitting member of Congress for the rest of their lives. Violations will be punishable by up to five years in a federal penitentiary not currently housing Bernie Madoff.
— After leaving Congress, former Representatives and Senators may not receive payments from any foreign governments except North Korea, but only if they agree to live there.
— Members of Congress may not name buildings after themselves. However, each retiring member may have a Manager’s Special at the Dunkin’ Donuts franchises in their district or state named after them for one day (red-white-and-blue sprinkles permitted).
As it’s first order of business, the new Congress will honor the current Congress by inviting all of its members to participate in a special luxury cruise that will set sail from Southhampton, U.K. on April 10. This cruise will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the maiden voyage of the Titanic across the Atlantic, using an exact replica of the mighty ship that was declared “too big to fail.”
On the night of April 14, there will be a very special ceremony on the big ship about 200 miles south-southeast of Nova Scotia. It will last about three hours from start to finish. There will be music, lots of wealthy friends who were given free tickets to join the party and plenty of ice for the drinks, just like the old Super Congress likes it.
Due to an unexpected shortfall in the federal budget, there will not be any lifeboats.