What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

  • The Super Committee doesn’t have much time left to make a decision on deficit reduction. As November 23 approaches, the media coverage of its inability to agree on anything will grow exponentially. Someone should do a graph on that instead of focusing on what the possible outcomes of the Super Committee could mean for the deficit, which has been covered in great detail already. The smartest option for reducing the deficit is to let the Bush tax cuts expire, something Republicans will never endorse because it would be a big threat to their electoral prospects for multiple election cycles. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a great rundown on what the 2013 sequestration would look like. Then again, sequestration might turn out to be an empty threat given the fact that Congress has the power to both put itself in deficit reduction time-out and render such punishment obsolete (no one puts Boehner in the corner), which is the worst possible outcome for the Super Committee deliberations. If someone (I’m talking to you Bernie Sanders) could filibuster for, I don’t know, a year or two, and various tax and spending policies expired on time, the deficit would be reduced by $7.1 trillion, an astounding figure that shows that calling the current Congress “do-nothing” isn’t quite accurate. They’ve been especially adept at spending, just not always on things that will help the majority of American citizens.

  • Support for the Occupy movement is drying up, and today’s occupation of the subway is sure to tarnish their reputation among tentative supporters. The Economist has a great post stating that it’s time for the Occupy movement to take their fight to the next level and engage in the political process. Without trying to push for specific legislation and electing people who share their core beliefs (maybe time to create the Occupy party), the movement is unlikely to move forward. The post also beautifully reminds us about how political disagreement works, and provides some hope—not only for the Occupiers, but for those watching the Super Committee, too:

    There is something profoundly satisfying about believing that one's own team alone has seen through the fog of disinformation and propaganda to the real truth about the treacherous interests that stand between our condition and the reign of justice. And there is something terrifically exciting about the sense, often engendered by visible protest movements, that one's own team is growing, that its narrative is catching on. Conversely, there is something profoundly dissatisfying, and a little bit demoralising, in acknowledging that most people will never accept many of ones' most ardently-held convictions, and that, therefore, none of us will ever get to live in a society that closely matches, or even roughly approximates, our beloved ideals. But it's true all the same. And it's true all the same that our actual democracy, for all its problems, does about as well as democracy can be realistically expected to do, given the size and diversity of this country. Frankly, we're pretty lucky our democracy works as well as it does. There's a great deal we can do to make it a little better, but there's very little we can do to make it a lot better, because we'll almost never agree enough about the really big stuff.

  • The New York Times published something Drew Westen wrote again. Before you read it and start pining for a Jed Bartlet candidacy (all Westen articles seem infused with the misguided hope of making The West Wing a reality, which would be admirable if he wasn’t so serious about it), first read these thorough takedowns of his arguments, which restore faith in the current political system instead of one envisioned by Aaron Sorkin.
  • Although there are many important domestic and international issues that should be taken into consideration when voters decide which GOP candidate to pick early in 2012, religion will likely be an influential factor in voters’ calculus of who best represents their party. And, as this poll shows, Romney’s predicted victory may stumble upon the party base’s perception of his religion. James Fallows has a good take on the “Mormon question” and the effect it will have on the race, and The Stone blog on the Opinionator has a more philosophical take on religion and politics.
  • On the other hand, maybe the GOP is ready to embrace views beyond its evangelical roots. Today, Newt Gingrich said he would rather have dinner with Charles Darwin than with Jesus Christ! On the other hand, this may be the beginning of the end of his rise in the polls.
  • And finally a good read for people who enjoy jokes about superheroes and bureaucracy. And really, who doesn’t?