It was an incredible missed opportunity to put our fiscal house in order. The 12-member Supercommittee was empowered to make cuts to any part of the budget or recommend any tax or entitlement changes. And if its members had come up with a deal, the House and Senate would have been required to vote on it without making changes.
To quote political sage and comedian Jon Stewart, "You know Congress, this is why people don't like you...Is there anything that these folks can actually get done?"
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was even more scathing in his criticism, calling the Supercommittee's failure a "damning indictment of Washington's inability to govern this country."
The public disgust with Congress is reflected in recent Gallup polls which have tracked Congressional job approval at 13 percent for the past two months, tying an all-time Gallup low.
Even members of Congress are revolted. Moderate Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine released a statement calling the Supercommittee "a monumental waste of time and opportunity" that "represents yet another regrettable milestone in Congress's steady march toward abject ineffectiveness."
"It paints a portrait of dysfunction that further crystallizes for the American people their government's incapacity for producing solutions to our major challenges."
Despite various stories about eleventh-hour meetings and last ditch efforts it didn't even look like the Supercommittee tried all that hard. The panel hadn't formally met in weeks and some of its members, along with much of Congress, started to leave town for Thanksgiving over the weekend.
President Obama, who had a hands off approach to the Supercommittee's work, appeared in the White House briefing room on Monday evening to declare in a brief statement that Democrats were willing to offer concessions but Republicans in Congress "have refused to listen to the voices of reason and compromise that are coming from outside of Washington."
"So far, that refusal continues to be the main stumbling block that has prevented Congress from reaching an agreement to further reduce our deficit," Obama asserted.
I don't know who was more at fault for the failure to get a deal -- Democrats or Republicans -- but there's plenty of blame to go around.
If you shot up every member of Congress with truth serum and asked them what needs to be done to fix our deficit and fiscal mess I think they would all admit the same thing -- that taxes need to be raised and spending needs to be cut, including entitlement reform. But because of partisan pressures, lobbyist and special interest influence, and even an unwillingness on the part of much of the public to live with the tough choices that would be necessary, Congress refuses to do what its members believe must be done.
Undoubtedly Obama and his team decided after the mess this summer with the debt ceiling negotiations that there was no advantage to getting involved. But that makes our president ineffectual at best -- and, at worst, cowardly.