News Release

“Super Congress” Budget Deal a “Turkey;” a “Lesson in Investment Theory of Political Parties”


THOMAS FERGUSON, thomas.ferguson at
Ferguson is professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and a senior fellow of the Roosevelt Institute. He said today: “Even by American legislative standards, this deal is a turkey and it’s totally appropriate that the new bipartisan Congressional committee should have to report at Thanksgiving. The U.S. economy is plainly stalling out, but beginning in October, the bill enforces sharp cuts in annual appropriations — about $300 billion. It’s obvious that tax rises will not be a significant part of the package: if you couldn’t get any now, what are the chances you can later, with a presidential election even closer? And the noises coming out of Washington today about possible cuts in Medicare falling only on providers and not program beneficiaries are hot air and in D.C. they know it. Because the bill’s second stage opens up the entire tax code to revision, it also guarantees a bonanza in campaign contributions for candidates of both parties next year. This bill is an expensive lesson in what might be termed the investment theory of political parties: that both parties represent big money interests, with the Democrats now representing old Republican positions and the Republicans in some new political hyperspace, where normal math and economics no longer apply — for a while. In time, I think, the popular reaction will be fierce.”

Ferguson recently co-wrote “The Truth About the Deficit and Social Security: Actually, It has Almost Nothing to with our Soaring National Debt. So Why is There Talk of Cutting It?

Ferguson’s books include Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems. He also recently wrote a piece for the Financial Times, which states: “Political money that dominates Capitol Hill obviously plays some role in the stalemate machine. But tired recitations of astronomical campaign finance spending totals miss the bigger picture. For a tidal wave of cash has structurally transformed Congress, sweeping away the old seniority system that governed leadership selection and committee assignments. In its place, the major political parties borrowed a practice from big box retailers like Walmart, Best Buy or Target. Uniquely among legislatures in the developed world, U.S. congressional parties now post prices for key slots in the lawmaking process.”

Allison is co-executive director of RootsAction, which just put out an action alert against the deal: “The debt ceiling deal struck last night does not tax the rich or even allow temporary tax cuts on the rich to expire. Nor does it defund any wars. Yet it requires cuts of $1.2 trillion now and $2.5 trillion over a decade. Details of much of the cutting will be worked out by a new 12-member Super Congress empowered to cut any spending, and to force a rushed vote with no amendments on whatever it proposes to the actual Congress. And if that antidemocratic procedure fails, cuts will happen automatically. Half of those cuts might be to the military, but that should be seen before believed, and the devil will be in the details — details being rammed through under the gun of a manufactured crisis.”

MAX FRAAD WOLFF, mfwolff at
Wolff is an instructor at the Graduate Program in International Affairs at the New School University and senior analyst with Greencrest Capital. He said today: “Today’s deal has all the hallmarks of past misadventure. The details are murky, the penalties and fines are draconian. … Much of the deal reflects bargaining between Tea Party and standard Republicans.”