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Gridlock Eraser. Budget Swallower. Debt Silencer.

Chris Roberson

Kai Ryssdal: The super committee holds its fifth public hearing tomorrow. Twelve ordinary members of Congress suddenly given the power to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal budget.

There's been no real sign of progress so far. Not so surprising, says commentator Chris Roberson.


Chris Roberson: Ever since I was a kid, I've been obsessed with Superman, the "Super Friends," the Legion of Super-Heroes, and too many other super-people to mention. So I have certain expectations whenever the prefix "super" is put on the front of a word. Namely, that the thing in question should be, well, actually super.

Which brings me to the so-called "super committee," a congressional creation meant to end gridlock over the deficit. Unfortunately, it has fallen victim to the very forces it was intended to defeat.

It's not faster than a speeding amendment or more powerful than a filibuster, and it doesn't soar over gridlock. Instead, the super committee seems as helpless as Superman when he's been rendered powerless by a blast of red sun radiation, or worse yet, kryptonite.

But I think the trouble with the super committee can be traced to its secret origin. It didn't get bitten by a radioactive spider, or struck by lightning, or bathed in cosmic rays. The problem is, the super committee just didn't gain the right powers.

Superheroes like Superman and The Flash are able to travel faster than the speed of light. They can move through time at will. Imagine a super committee with the ability to go back in time and undo key bits of legislation before they had a disastrous effect on the economy. Or travel forwards in time and see what the effects of legislation they're currently considering will really be.

But that's just the beginning. The leader of the X-Men, Professor X, can read minds. Wouldn't it be cool if committee members could all read each others' minds, so they each knew what the others were really thinking? No more subterfuge or subtlety, just an open, honest discourse.

And then there's Matter Eater Lad, with the ability to, well, eat anything. Imagine a world in which the super committee could simply eat the deficit.

But the super committee's secret origin is set in stone, sadly, and barring some sort of retroactive continuity change, we're stuck with the powers they've been given. Not so super.


Ryssdal: Chris Roberson reads and writes a lot of comic books; he's a former writer for Superman. Send us your comments.

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It's not only negotiating with others in government, the lobbyists are working overtime on this one, and we all know they are always the winners!

The "Super Committee" is itself a result of failure of policy and politics. We are still obsessed with cutting spending with an anemic economy. It's the demand, Stupid! Instead of a debate about what to cut, our budget should be discussed in a much broader context: what kind of country do we want in the future? If we can figure out how we want this country to look, then we can work backwards to a real solution. Unless, of course, for some of us, we like things just the way they are...

Don't be deluded into thinking this committee is negotiating only among themselves. All outside players (White House, congressional leaders, etc) are heavily involved.

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