As the deadline for the Super Committee’s proposals to cut the federal budget (due before Thanksgiving) draws near, we’re wondering: Will the Super Committee turn out to be a turkey?

Of course, the Super Committee only exists because of Congress’ refusal to cut the budget through normal processes. During the debt ceiling crisis, when the budget was front and center, Congress adopted Scarlet O’Hara’s policy—"I’ll think about that tomorrow"—except that Congress went Ms. O’Hara one better. Congress appointed a Super Committee to think about tomorrow  for them.

Part of the idea implicit in the appointment of the Super Committee is the notion that our politics have just become so poisonous that Congress couldn’t get together and deal with our debt. If we had more comity, the thinking goes, we could solve this danged debt problem.

In a brilliant piece that is part of a Commentary magazines symposium (Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America’s future?), Michael J. Lewis (the Williams College professor, not the other one) makes the point that this gets it exactly backwards:

It is the debt—and the entitlement payments that increasingly compose it—that poisoned our politics. Nothing has debilitated our political culture more than the task of maintaining a welfare state that demands an ever-greater share of the nation’s wealth.

A fundamental tenet of parliamentary government holds that no parliament can bind its successors. But the welfare state binds the legislators in just this way, increasingly restricting their scope of action. A great deliberative body has withered into something like a speech-giving collection agency.

Because of the seemingly intractable debt, Lewis argues, the scope of genuine legislative activity narrows and we are more and more governed by “fiat on the part of nonelected regulators or judges.”

I hope the Super Committee succeeds. I really do. But the very existence of such an entity shows that we are in big trouble.

As Carrie already has pointed out, the Super Committee is “another canary in the coal mine which will tell us if our political system is up to the challenges we face.”

Whether we're talking turkeys or canaries, we await news of the Super Committee's work with trepidation.