If the events of the last ten days – the near-default of our economy, the wild rollercoaster of the Dow, and the S&P downgrade – have shown us anything, they have shown us that government matters. The government that governs least may be the right approach sometimes, but the government that doesn’t govern is a sure path to disaster.
With the appointment of the super committee, composed of a small fraction of members from the House and the Senate, it is clear that the leaders of the two chambers recognize that this government either won’t – or can’t – govern. They have pushed the fundamental function of the legislative branch into the hands of a small cadre of appointed lawmakers. This is not how the two great legislative chambers were designed to work, nor does it accurately reflect how the chambers are capable of working. The House and the Senate can and should do better.
Nevertheless, we must deal with the situation at hand, and all eyes and all bets are now on this super committee. It has work to do: it must hold hearings, stimulate discussion, propose and debate hard ideas in a civil manner, and produce a meaningful proposal that majorities of both parties can support. The committee has the chance to show, and in some instances to teach, members of both chambers, the executive branch, the markets, and especially the American people that Congress – even if it is this small group in a truncated timeframe – can indeed work.
Much of this issue of the Intersection is appropriately focused on the members of this super committee. But we should also be sure to watch the 98 percent of Congress who are not on it. I had a high school soccer coach who used to say: “When you pass the ball, you don’t pass the responsibility.” Every member of Congress is responsible for the success of the super committee. Let’s hope they keep their eyes on the ball.