From TPM comes this neat graph that shows what will happen if the Super Committee fails. Well, if Congress can't agree and simply does nothing, the deficit... will drop like a rock!
And note that only a small part of this will be from those spending cuts that are supposed to be automatic if the Super Committee fails. The majority of it, in fact, will come from rolling back Bush's tax cuts. Well, that's how we got here in the first place.
Between the looming expiration of the Bush tax cuts and other temporary tax provisions ($4.8 trillion), a large, scheduled drop in Medicare physician reimbursement rates ($300 billion), the soon-to-be triggered penalties for Super Committee failure ($1.2 trillion), and the resulting savings on servicing the national debt ($900 billion), deficits are set to drop by over $7 trillion automatically, unless Congress affirmatively stops it. That’s on top of the $1 trillion-plus dollars Congress banked in the debt ceiling fight.
As you can see, the “do nothing” approach practically eliminates the deficit by mid-decade. Congress’ preferred approach of whining about the deficit but then voting to make deficits higher blows up the budget very fast. [my emphasis]
Of course, there’s never been much of an appetite in Congress for letting these things happen. Republicans want to extend all the Bush tax cuts, Democrats want to extend most of them. Republicans and Democrats both want to protect Medicare doctors from a pay cut. And Republicans are already clamoring to repeal and replace the defense spending cuts in the Super Committee penalty.
This probably isn't anything we want to happen. It would likely dump us back into recession again. But if it's a choice between this and just the spending cuts - keeping the tax cuts for the rich, while slashing spending which benefits everyone else - well, let's hope that Congress can't agree on anything.
But that's almost certainly too optimistic. Even if the Democrats don't cave - and they always do, don't they? - they're still going to be eager to cut taxes on most Americans. If Democrats had a spine,... well, that's hard to even imagine. Let's just say that there's no chance this will actually happen.