The Debt Crisis and the Deficit-Reduction Super-Committee: Is Bipartisanship Impossible?


As I am sure everyone is aware, the spending of the U.S. government has been out of control over the past decade. Our country’s budget deficit has been ridiculously large, and it only continues to grow. With this massive budget deficit, the United States’ national debt has skyrocketed, recently surpassing $15 trillion. But this cannot go on forever. At some point, America’s leaders in Washington need to set aside partisan conflicts and manufacture a plan to eliminate, or at least drastically reduce, the budget deficit. There has to be a point at which the national debt cannot continue to grow uncontrollably.

However, it looked like a solution might be reached when a special so-called “super-committee” was formed about two months ago to devise a way to reduce the U.S.’s budget deficit by combining a series of spending cuts and tax increases. If reached, such a solution would potentially save American taxpayers $1.2 trillion over the next decade. Despite two months of talks meant to improve the current state of the debt crisis in the U.S., the bipartisan super-committee is yet to come to a consensus. How much should the government raise taxes and on whom? From which parts of the federal budget should spending cuts be made? Unfortunately, no resolution has been reached, and the blame game between Democrats and Republicans continues to persist. “If you look at the Democrats’ position, it was ‘We have to raise taxes. We have to pass this jobs bill, which is another almost half-trillion dollars. And we’re not excited about entitlement reform,'” said Republican Jon Kyl of Arizona on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Super-Committee Leaders (Credit: Mike Theiler/REUTERS)

So, after yet another prime example of Washington’s failure to find middle ground between Republican and Democratic political agendas, I wonder whether or not the pressing issue of the U.S. debt crisis will ever be solved or even at least improved. Super-committee panel co-chair Senator Patty Murray said, “There is one sticking divide. And that’s the issue of what I call shared sacrifice.” I would have to agree. Without bipartisanship, the federal government in Washington can accomplish nothing. When it comes to an issue as important as the U.S.’s rapidly growing $15 trillion national debt, our elected officials should work diligently (although I understand it is quite difficult) to each make concessions in order to benefit the common good. Simply put, bipartisanship is necessary for efficient government, something that has struggled immensely in recent years.

In the second book of his Social Contract, Rousseau addresses the idea of the common good. In dealing with the issue of conflict of opinion in politics, he explicitly highlights the importance of each side working to benefit the overall common good by making their own respective concessions. Rousseau notes that the central purpose of the state is to achieve the greatest benefit of the common good, an end accomplished by bipartisan efforts:

“The first and most important deduction from the principles we have so far laid down is that the general will alone can direct the State according to the object for which it was instituted, i.e., the common good: for if the clashing of particular interests made the establishment of societies necessary, the agreement of these very interests made it possible.”

Although Rousseau published the Social Contract more than two hundred years ago, his ideas regarding “partisan” interests and the government’s role in furthering the common good are still quite valid today. Such interests, Rousseau would argue, should be set aside in favor of the overall benefit of the society. The failure of the U.S.’s so-called deficit-reduction “super-committee” to devise a plan for drastically decreasing the budget deficit and working toward eventually repaying the monstrous national debt is just one more example of the struggle for bipartisanship. Neither the Republican leaders nor the Democratic leaders of the super-committee have made sufficient attempts to find common ground. Their positions are rooted in the self-interest of their respective political parties. Thus, a solution has not been reached.

So, after yet another example of failed bipartisanship in Washington, is a Republican-Democrat agreement even possible for any political matters. Are our nation’s leaders even slightly interested in putting the good of the people, their constituents, first? I find such a question very difficult to answer.

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University of Michigan Student

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4 Comments on “The Debt Crisis and the Deficit-Reduction Super-Committee: Is Bipartisanship Impossible?”

  1. Jordan Wylie Says:

    As sad as it sounds, sometimes I don’t think our elected officials have the people’s wants and needs first on their list. Even though they are elected to represent our wants and needs sometimes I think they forget their purpose and start pushing for what they want instead. In terms of having the two sides agree, at this rate it is impossible. Neither side will concede and it is turning into a strength match. Whoever gives in first is weaker and neither side wants to be weak.

    It is as almost as if they have forgotten basic concepts we learn in elementary school. A compromise means both sides have to give up something. Neither side will give up anything and if Republicans nor Democrats will move and inch than nothing will ever change.

    What we need is for just one elected official to realize what is best for the country and give up something. Hopefully once people realize that this person is actually doing their job and serving their purpose, the other constituents will start complaining about their representatives and how they are not working for them. If the people speak up loud enough they will be heard.

    Like Rousseau said, the central purpose of the state is to achieve the greatest benefit of the common good through bipartisan efforts. Our Founding Fathers never intended for the United States to develop political parties anyhow. I think they would be appalled by our representatives now since it is taking them so long to solve the debt crisis.

  2. walirajat Says:

    The problem of the $15 trillion deficit is not being helped by the fact that general elections are right around the corner. It almost seems as if each side is refusing to budge from its position in the hope that come November of next year, the failure of jump starting the economy and reducing the deficit, each side can play the blame game and portray itself as the victim that tried to the best for the country but was impeded by the partisan opposition.

    This begs the question of whether our elected officials truly have the nation’s best interest at heart? With civil unrest growing each day and manifesting itself in the form of the “Occupy Movements” all over the country, it is time that the political parties begin to stop bickering among themselves and start listening. Americans are tired of the partisan politics and petty pandering. The need of the hour is for swift action on part of Congress to pass job bills, raise taxes and do everything in their power to start rebuilding the economy. Instead, we find them haggling over inconsequential bickering over reaffirming the county’s motto “In God We Trust” and the official declaration of pizza being a vegetable and thus should be allowed for lunch on high school menus as a healthy option.

    If this what the people of this great country have elected their officials to decide upon during these tough economic times and these are the type of issues that are able to encourage bipartisan support, the future of this country is going to continue to see some extremely tough times ahead.

  3. nluongo Says:

    I don’t necessarily think that just because our politicians are unable to find common ground, they must be looking out for themselves and not care about the people. Rousseau states the best government is one that works for the common will. I believe that our problem is not that parties are placing the good of their party over the good of the country. Rather, they simply disagree on what exactly the common will is and how to go about fulfilling it. This is not to say that no political gamesmanship takes place, but I think that every politician sincerely believes that their plan represents the common good and any compromise would damage the nation. I don’t think the problem is that no politicians care about the common good, but rather that they must recognize that their way of going about it may not be the best and should always consider the opposing side’s ideas.

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