The dysfunction of the American government has never been so transparent.
With the so-called Super-Committee kaput, more market instability looming and the distinct possibility of another recession, the absolute inability of Washington to solve the nation’s fiscal problems is inescapable.
The task was not that difficult: cut $1.2 trillion out of the budget over the next 10 years to begin to reduce the $15 trillion national debt. The common-sense answer was obvious to ordinary Americans: trim entitlements slightly and increase tax revenues modestly. Combine that with an extension of the payroll tax cut and the soon-to-expire unemployment benefits and there is a good chance the recovery will accelerate. Repeal the senseless Bush tax cuts on the wealthy and the economy could step on the pedal.
But the Super-Committee proved to be no more able to do that than the divided and dysfunctional Congress as a whole. So the blame-game has begun, with plenty to go around. It is a favorite sport in Washington, Capitol Hill’s Thanksgiving gift to the nation. As predictable as a Redskins defeat.
The public will surely spread the blame, charging both parties with the failure, as well as the executive branch. As it should. The Republicans are likely to get the lion’s share and pay the heavier price, but the Democrats, especially the so-called leadership, will pay as well. As it should.
President Obama will not escape this latest debacle. He may have been off in Asia reasserting the U.S. role in that region, but he wasn’t far enough away from the disaster in D.C. to avoid his share of the responsibility. The painful reality of the President’s current situation is that he has a plan: a jobs bill, proposals for an infrastructure bank, tax reform, etc. , that would surely help, but he lacks the political chops to get it enacted. So, ill-served by a weak staff, he fritters around the edges of the problem. His base sticks with him, but the independents he needs to get re-elected are drifting away.
Nonetheless, from the Las Vegas bookmaker’s point of view, he remains the odds-on favorite to be re-elected. Why? The disarray in the Republican field, mainly, and the growing sense among voters that divided government is part of the problem, not the solution. It is inescapably clear that in our system, as it functions today, real progress can only be made when one party or the other controls the White House and Congress.
It is up to be the public to decide which party should be in control. The voters need to give that party the political clout to pursue a solution. If the public doesn’t like the result, they can change it in the next election.
But at least there could be movement, instead of gridlock.
TERENCE SMITH IS A JOURNALIST. HIS WEBSITE IS terencefsmith.com