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How firm is the super committee's debt deadline?

Former Sen. Alan Simpson and former White House Chief of Staff under the Clinton Administration Erskine Bowles, co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

Jeremy Hobson: We've been spending a lot of time in recent weeks talking about the debt problems in Europe. But we're less than two weeks away from the deadline set by Congress to make big cuts in our budget here in the U.S.

I'm talking about the work of the so-called super committee, which is tasked with identifying
$1.2 trillion in cuts over 10 years.

But, as Marketplace's David Gura reports you might want to take that deadline with a grain of salt.


David Gura: The question really is whether the super committee's deadline is a deadline at all. Some lawmakers have asked if it could get more time to come up with a plan. Others want to change the very law that created this whole thing, nullifying hundreds of billions of dollars of automatic cuts. Amid all that, it's hard to be optimistic.

Jim Kessler of Third Way, a centrist think-tank, still holds out hope.

Jim Kessler: There might be a bit of a focusing of the mind in Congress, in which members are saying we need to get something done, because we are so unpopular right now that I can only count on my second cousin voting for me, and that's about it.

In Washington, the deadline might not be as hard and fast as it was at the beginning.

Erskine Bowles -- who c0-chaired President Obama's deficit commission -- told the super committee, there is growing concern outside the capital about what'll happen if there is no deal.

Erskine Bowles: I'm worried you're gonna fail -- fail the country.

Jim Kessler of Third Way paints a picture of what failure could look like.

Kessler: There is, I believe, a certainty that this nation's credit rating will be downgraded by the remaining credit rating agencies, and that's a disaster for this country.

Former Senator Alan Simpson, who worked alongside Erskine Bowles, says this wouldn't just be a disaster for big government.

Alan Simpson: Interest rates will go up. Inflation will go up, by the failure. And guess who gets hurt? The little guy.

And besides all that, any cuts wouldn't take effect until 2013, which is after a new Congress is elected. And that Congress, obviously, has the power to rewrite laws -- including this one.

In Washington, I'm David Gura, for Marketplace.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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