Pixel Tracker

Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 6:49 am | Fair 42º


Mark Shields: Republicans Are Biggest Winners in Super Committee Failure

Gridlock over budget deficit doesn't bode well for the pro-government Democratic Party

You can make a case that the failure of Congress’ overhyped “super committee” to find common ground to reduce the federal budget deficit politically benefits the Democratic Party. After all, the one real point of public consensus on dealing with the deficits that emerged is voters’ agreement with President Barack Obama’s argument that the wealthiest taxpayers should pay higher taxes.

In addition, congressional Democrats can boast to their core supporters that barely a single silver hair on the sacred heads of Social Security or Medicare will be disturbed by the $1.2 trillion in budget cuts triggered by the super committee’s failure.

But this analysis ignores the most profound consequence of the latest failure from Washington. Because Democrats historically have been the party that believes government can be and has been an effective instrument for social and economic justice, gridlock and paralysis in the nation’s capital reinforce the Republican argument that government is not an answer, but instead, the problem.

Americans, not that long ago, did have confidence in the federal government. That confidence was earned through historic successes. How about the United States rebuilding a devastated and demoralized Europe after World War II and thereby saving millions from disease, starvation, slavery and death? A federal government that could conquer and eliminate polio and put a man on the moon while bringing electricity to the most remote, rural corners of the continent could be trusted.

The private sector and tax cuts did not protect endangered species, save the Great Lakes, reclaim America’s rivers or make American air cleaner. The U.S. government, headquartered in Washington, D.C., did. This same national government could end racial segregation and officially sanctioned discrimination through federal laws that guaranteed the right to vote, the right to stay in a hotel, to go to a movie, to eat a hamburger and, later, to buy a home in any neighborhood the buyer could afford.

In those halcyon days, seven out of 10 Americans trusted their government “to do the right thing” either “all” or “most of the time.”

But that, of course, was before Watergate and Vietnam, the savings and loan scandal, Enron, before wars launched to wipe out nonexistent “weapons of mass destruction,” before Wall Street larceny, Fannie Mae and taxpayer bailouts. And before unlimited money came to shadow American lawmaking and to dominate American political campaigns.

Not surprisingly, in this winter of national discontent, we have seen barely two out of 10 citizens trusting their government “to do the right thing” either “all” or “most of the time.”

If the government can’t do what it’s supposed to do, conservatives argue, then why — given the feds’ chronic inability or unwillingness to stop the flood of red ink in Washington — would you trust the government to do more?

So while the Democrats may have won last week’s rhetorical debating points over who was wrong in the super committee stalemate, the environment in which the 2012 campaign will be waged has become even more pessimistic, less confident, more distrustful and more hostile to government. That is a national environment in which a pro-government Democratic Party does not thrive.

Mark Shields is one of the most widely recognized political commentators in the United States. The former Washington Post editorial columnist appears regularly on CNN, on public television and on radio. Click here to contact him.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.