But please don't cut

The law that created the 12-member supercommittee charged with getting a handle on the nation's skyrocketing debt also gave regular congressional committees until Friday to submit their advice to the panel.

And if the first batch of letters -- submitted to the supercommittee Thursday -- are any indication, it's clear that many congressional Democrats have no interest in cutting any aspect of the federal budget.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi maintained in her own letter to the supercommittee that her caucus is "firmly committed to a deficit reduction plan that is big, bold and balanced." But by "big, bold and balanced" she apparently means chock full of tax increases to ensure the spigot to Washington continues to run freely.

The letters -- mostly from Democrats; Republicans were expected to submit their advice today -- "were striking for the consistency with which many defended programs that each committee oversees," The Associated Press reported.

They "also spotlighted the tenacity with which many lawmakers defend programs they have jurisdiction over, even in the face of a debt problem that both parties agree is a significant threat to the nation's long-term fiscal and economic health."

In other words, the power to spread money around to favored constituencies through federal programs is clearly more important to many beltway politicians than ensuring the long-term solvency of the nation.

The 12-member supercommittee -- with six Democrats and six Republicans -- has until Nov. 23 to formulate at least $1.2 trillion in budget savings over the next decade. Congress must then vote up or down on the entire package.

If the panel can't do its job, or Congress nixes the suggested budget blueprint, $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts to defense and domestic programs will phase in beginning in 2013.

Of course, all this presupposes that future Congresses won't undo this rather timid attempt to impose fiscal discipline. Don't assume that couldn't happen. Judging from the advice submitted Thursday to the supercommittee, it's clear we've still got a long way to go to change the culture that brought us close to the abyss in the first place.