Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Even though we've finished up with Congress and moved on to the Executive Branch, there have been some very important current events lately involving our Legislative Branch about which I felt it was important that you all have the opportunity to become educated and then comment on.

Remember during the chapter on Congress when you read about the different types of committees that exist (standing, select, joint, etc.)? Well, a couple of these categories were recently combined when, as part of a debt-reduction agreement that was reached earlier this year, Congress established the 12-member Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the "Super-Committee," made up of 6 members of the House (3 Democrats & 3 Republicans) as well as 6 Senators (also 3 from each party).

The Committee was charged with figuring out how to reduce the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years, with the understanding that if they did not, a so-called "trigger mechanism" would be enacted that would impose automatic across-the-board spending cuts of over $1 trillion, on everything from domestic social welfare programs, to foreign aid, even to the military. Quite an incentive to figure out how to work together and come to an agreement, no?!

Click here for a Google Doc that explains in relatively concise terms exactly what this 'Super-Committee' is, how it came about, what it was designed to do, and why. This "fact sheet" is not entirely objective; it comes from the National League of Cities, and so the "we" it refers to underscores the importance of the Super-Committee's actions to state and local government funding. Even though it comes from that perspective, however, I would say the explanation is still basically politically neutral and doesn't really favor the views of one party or the other.

Suffice to say that over Thanksgiving Break, it became clear that these 12 members of Congress would be unable to accomplish their mission, and now--as often happens in politics--each side is blaming the other for that failure. Below are links to three different opinion pieces published online in the past week or so that I would like you to read; the first blames Democrats on the committee, the second lays blame on super-committee Republicans, and the third actually points the finger at President Obama.


Now I realize that, even though we've referred to some of these issues and ideas in a peripheral way in class from time to time, you may not have sufficient background knowledge or context about all of this for everything to make perfect sense. Still, just do the best you can, and after reading the explanation of what the Super-Committee is as well as those 3 opinion pieces, please answer the following questions in your posted comments:
  • Do you think it is important to reduce our federal deficit? Why?
  • How important is this issue to you, i.e., are there other issues facing our country today that you feel are significantly more or less important than this one?
  • Do you think something like the 'Super-Committee' is a good idea, in which Congress is more or less forced to act in addressing our federal deficit? Why (not)?
  • Which of the 3 articles do you think made the strongest argument(s) in support of its point of view? Why?
  • Which of the 3 articles do you think made the weakest argument(s) in support of its point of view? Why?
  • Which deficit reduction approach do you find yourself agreeing with more--decreasing government spending or increasing tax revenues? Or perhaps some of both? Why?
Like I said, I totally understand that you may be confused by some of the terminology in the readings, and you may not feel that you have an adequate foundation in the subject matter to effectively comment about everything, but please just do the best you can. I will be checking the blog during the "posting window" more than I usually do, so if something comes up that you're unsure about or if you have any questions, post them as a comment and if possible I will post a reply shortly thereafter that will answer your questions as best I can.

Your two comments must be posted by the end of the day Friday, December 9 (BTW, posting something to ask me a question does NOT count as one of your two comments!). Your first comment should be answering the questions above, and the second should agree or disagree with something a classmate has posted, and explain why you agree/disagree. Thanks, good luck, and have fun!!

Silvy :)