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Why the supercommittee failed: The last best hope

THE failure by Congress’s joint select committee to produce a deficit plan was greeted with widespread disappointment, but little shock. Voters had long expected failure. Wall Street had predicted at best a small deal. Deprived of even that, stocks fell November 21st, the day the committee announced its failure, but soon turned their attention back to Europe.Superficially the lack of alarm was understandable. The showdown between Republicans and President Barack Obama over the debt ceiling in August could have forced the federal government to renege immediately on its bills. In contrast, the law that established the “supercommittee” dictates that without a deficit plan, $1.2 trillion in spending cuts spread over domestic and defence programmes (a “sequester”) be triggered, but not until 2013.However, the implications of the committee’s failure are more disturbing than the reaction of the markets has let on. It leaves a series of landmines in the path of the economy over the next 14 months while leaving America’s longer-term fiscal challenges unaddressed. It also further entrenches Democrats and Republicans in…

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