Based on the inability to agree to basic mathematical facts about our budget, the deficit, and the options for the future, it would be easy to have no confidence whatsoever that the Super Committee will manage to get anything done in its short time frame. They cannot even figure out what baseline to work off, which is actually a key decision that will determine CBO scoring and whether the committee recommendation reaches the targets set out in the debt limit deal. The whole baseline issue, which deals with numbers much larger than the deficit reduction targets on the committee, just shows how foolish the entire enterprise is. The Super Committee would be better off doing absolutely nothing and watching the budget magically fall into primary balance in the medium term as a result.

But I wouldn’t be so sure that the Super Committee will just collapse, leading to the pulling of a trigger with major cuts to the defense budget. And for evidence, you need only look to this:

The Aerospace Industries Association on Tuesday will hand one of its top awards to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), one of the co-chairmen of the special deficit-cutting committee.

The Wings of Liberty award will be presented to Murray on the same day the congressional supercommittee held its first public business meeting.

Murray has long advocated for aerospace programs as a member of the Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee and a founding member of the Senate Aerospace Caucus. She was one of the most vocal advocates of Boeing’s entry into a decade-long Air Force tanker aircraft competition. Boeing eventually won, beating out rival Airbus in a bitter race.

In a statement, AIA said Murray “continues to call attention to the important issues facing the nation’s transportation infrastructure and the U.S. aerospace industry.” […]

In previous years, AIA has handed the award to House Appropriations Committee ranking member Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and now-retired Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), who for years was either Senate Armed Services Committee chairman or ranking member.

It’s funny how this award usually goes into the hands of the top defense appropriator in Congress. It’s so coincidental!

There was a Lockheed Martin ad on the page of The Hill attached to that story. It’s just beyond clear that the defense industry will do whatever it can with the assets it has to avoid the reckoning of cuts.

Now, a Senate panel actually defied the industry yesterday by passing a FY 2012 defense plan that freezes spending at a level $26 billion below the President’s request and $18 billion below what the House passed. But that pales in comparison to the roughly $600 billion in cuts we would see to defense if the trigger gets pulled. This may be a “new day” in Washington with respect to the military-industrial complex, but I don’t think it’s that new.

Even if the trigger gets pulled, the MIC has a whole year to persuade Congress to change the trigger cuts away from the defense industry. As a result, I wouldn’t expect these to go into effect.

David Dayen

David Dayen