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Coming: Big Austerity Cuts

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Coming: Big Austerity Cuts - by Stephen Lendman

Big social spending cuts are coming, targeting entitlements.

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The congressional August Budget Control Act of 2011 established the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction - aka Supercommittee.

Doing so was extralegal. The Constitution's Article 1, Section 8 explains congressional powers. None of them include supercommittee authority to resolve America's debt crisis.

Article 1, Section 8, Sub-section 18 lets Congress "make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution (of its other listed Powers), and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department Officer thereof."

Even though government authority is limited only by the boundaries of possibility, no constitutional principle gives 12 members more power than others, let alone in secret.

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Composed of six House and six Senate members from both parties, Supercommittee authority ran until November 23 to agree on $1.2 - $1.5 trillion in budget cuts over the next 10 years. Consensus would have let Congress only vote them up or down without amendments, debate or delay.

Ahead of their deadline, 100 Democrats and Republicans wrote supercommittee members (the so-called "gang of 12") that "(t)o succeed, all options for mandatory and discretionary spending and revenue must be on the table." They, in fact, asked for agreement on $4 trillion in cuts.

In other words, they want deep social spending reductions, mainly Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and public pensions. In earlier negotiations, Obama agreed.

Nonetheless, hours before their self-imposed deadline, Supercommittee members ended negotiations without agreement. By law, automatic $1.2 trillion in cuts over 10 years will start in 2013. They're to be equally divided between defense and domestic programs. 

In fact, expect sustained military spending at the expense of gutting America's social contract. Either way, lost purchasing power means less spending, fewer jobs, and greater public anger than today's high levels.

Progressive Radio News Hour regular Jack Rasmus discussed what's at issue and what's next. It's not about political disagreements. It reflects serving wealth and power interests at the expense of popular ones.

Deficit cutting always is secondary. Key is protecting corporate handouts and Bush era tax cuts, as well as expanding them for business and upper-bracket earners.

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Supercommittee Democrat members, in fact, offered unprecedented Medicare and Medicaid cuts on top of those already made - at minimum, $500 billion over the next decade with increases in out-years.

They also agreed on $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts, equally divided between defense and domestic programs and about $500 billion in tax increases.

Republicans countered with $760 billion in Medicare and Medicaid cuts plus about $300 billion in taxes raised largely from middle income earners by reducing mortgage deductions and others helping less affluent households.

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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