Super Committee: Who Are These Guys?

on September 29, 2011 at 3:06 PM
A recent story tried to answer this question as follows: If the committee process fails to produce a debt reduction plan, as much as $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts would kick in — evenly divided between defense and non-defense spending.
Almost all men — they are the 12-member panel charged with finding an additional $1.5 trillion in debt savings over a ten-year period.
It will be tough work and will likely require political sacrifice on issues like taxes and entitlements if meaningful progress is to be made toward stabilizing the national debt
The members have a range of political experience — from novice to veteran. They are experts in taxes and the budget process. They hail from states as disparate as Texas, Michigan and Arizona.
In a sign that these appointees might not be the most willing to compromise, four of the members — two Republicans and two Democrats — served on the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction panel but voted against the plan.
American Enterprise Institute, said that if the goal is a grand compromise, the appointments “could have been a lot worse,” but that this group “is not going to leave me dancing on a cloud.”
The committee will have until Nov. 23 to propose ways to reduce deficits. Those proposals must be voted on by Dec. 23.

My data science inclinations led me to ask: Is there anything in the data that could indicate how they may decide between defense and non-defense spending cuts like do they represent more defense industries and installations than those needing entitlements or vice versa?

One data set that stood out to me was the amount of annual entitlement benefits that flow back to their states or districts. Here are what the numbers show:

Member State/ District Billions (Annual)
Sen. Patty Murray (D) Wash $14.8
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R) Texas $1.6
Sen. Jon Kyl (R) Ariz. $14.2
Sen. Rob Portman (R) Ohio $27.4
Sen. Pat Toomey (R) Pa. $34.4
Sen. Max Baucus (D) Mont. $2.4
Sen. John Kerry (D) Mass. $14.9
Rep. Dave Camp (R) Mich. $2.1
Rep. Fred Upton (R) Mich. $1.8
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D) Calif. $0.5
Rep. James Clyburn (D) S.C. $1.6
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) Md. $1.3

The chart above of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid data of super committee members by the Strengthen Social Security.Org show that two Republican Senators (Toowmey and Portman) have the largest sum total benefits on their states. So one would think they would favor preserving entitlements over defense spending budget cuts.

In addition, two Senators also have smaller than average contributions from Political Action Committees (PACs) according to the Maplight Contribution Profile of Members of the Deficit ‘Super Committee’.

The top 10 industry and top 10 organization contributors to super committee members do not seem to show any pattern that would suggest how those contributions might influence the outcome.

Certainly we will need to see data on the proposed bugdet cuts that shows specific agencies, programs, and recipient locations like at which the author has analyzed recently. Unfortunately, there was so much missing data that a rigorous analysis was not possible. Hopefully, that will not be the case this time as the American people deserve better. The data science details behind this work are shown here.