The big buzz on cable news this week is that the supercommittee failed when it couldn't come to a compromise on how to cut the federal budget by $1.5 trillion.
But the truth is that the American people won.
And now, we must keep on winning.
We won when Democrats on the Super Committee held their ground on the expiring Bush tax cuts on the wealthy.
Instead of focusing like a laser on job creation, conservative Republicans in Congress held our nation's finances hostage in July. To appease the hostage-takers, Congress created a closed-door committee to force through major cuts this fall.
Thankfully, enough Democrats held together on the Super Committee to stop severe cuts from going through. Many proposed to seek revenue from small tax increases for the wealthy and a tiny “Wall Street Tax” on risky stock trades. But those cries from the 99% fell on the deaf ears of conservatives on the Super Committee.
Progressives don't often battle the concentrated forces of corporations and their armies of lobbyists to a stalemate. For that reason, we can stop, reflect on a job well done, and thank the congressmen and women who stopped the worst from getting through.
But we're not out of the woods yet.
The so-called economic recovery hasn't reached the vast majority of jobseekers and homeowners who have been battered by the financial collapse and its aftermath. And the bill that created the Super Committee mandated massive cuts to education, health care, environmental regulation, and job creation in 2013. So we still have some work to do.
In fact, the fights coming up are likely to be brutal. The Super Committee trigger does not identify where the domestic cuts are coming from. And conservatives are already trying to roll back the trigger's cuts to the defense budget and replace them with deeper cuts to domestic programs. So we need to keep fighting if we want to protect the EPA, science, energy research and development, home weatherization, and other vital programs.
We also need to prepare for the fact that the deficit reduction battle will continue to rage in different forms, between now and the end of 2012. Throughout the election season, the same battle about extending Bush tax cuts for the rich (and maybe all the Bush tax cuts), cutting social programs and cutting defense will continue.
There is the possibility for a good outcome. Democrats have a tremendous amount of leverage, because the Bush tax cuts will automatically expire at the end of next year and $600 billion of cuts in defense will go into effect automatically [which would be truly historic] in January 2013 if Congress does nothing.
They can do it — if they show the courage that we saw in the past few weeks by the Occupy The Highway marchers.
A handful of activists this week walked more than 200 miles to D.C. from Occupy Wall Street's “Liberty Park.” They did so to make sure that Washington heard the cries of the 99% for fair treatment.
They pointed out that many students have already mortgaged their future for their education, only to graduate off a cliff into the worst job climate since the Great Depression. Seniors and veterans have already given much to this country and deserve fair treatment in return. These groups did not cause our fiscal and financial calamities.
The culprits are Bush's tax giveaways for the rich, lax oversight of Wall Street and endless wars. Any sacrifices to solve the problem should come primarily from those who enjoyed the tax breaks, bonuses and bailouts, not those who suffered.
Coming off this victory, people of conscience in Congress should follow the example of these marchers — and go the extra distance to find real solutions for our country.