Thursday, September 1, 2011

Read This Now - How Broken Is Our Political System?

Very, says Ezra Klein and this shouldn't be news to anyone who has been paying attention.  I fully agree that we've hit a new low though, and I'm willing to put a fair amount of the blame on the media for continuing with the he said she said story telling mantra instead of reporting facts and making sure that the public is actually informed.

Ezra's run down is too good to not share here, you should be reading all of his stuff especially the morning wonkbook.

The last year or so in American politics has been a tragedy. With unemployment over nine percent and underemployment closer to 16 percent, Washington has stopped talking about how to create jobs and turned its attention to cutting deficits. But it couldn't get that done, either. Having agreed to focus on the wrong question, the two parties proceeded to disagree over how to answer it.

When Republicans had the opportunity to strike a $4 trillion deficit-reduction deal with President Obama, they refused on the grounds that the deal would include around $1 trillion in new revenue, even as it extended $2.6 trillion in tax cuts. So far, we've passed less than $1 trillion in actual spending cuts, and the cost of doing even that was we nearly defaulted on the debt, which delivered another blow to an economy that was already trembling.

Last night, we descended into farce. Having failed to agree on the big issues, Washington descended to squabbling over a very, very small one: whether a mostly meaningless speech would happen on a Wednesday or a Thursday.

The White House tried to get a little cute here: they left the date of the speech open and then decided to schedule it at the same time as the GOP presidential debate. But they say they ran that by Speaker Boehner's office and didn't get an objection.

Then Boehner got a little cute: he pretended that the logistics were simply impossible -- a security sweep couldn't be assured on such short notice -- and, breaking with precedent, refused to schedule the address.
Eventually, the White House agreed to schedule the speech for Thursday. That may or may not have been the best political decision -- perhaps they could have just moved the address to a roomful of the unemployed -- but it was the adult decision. It would have been a shame for an argument over the venue to overshadow what is supposed to be a proposal about jobs.

Nevertheless, in the parlance of Washington, Boehner "won." And perhaps he did. But the rest of us lost. If it wasn't already clear that Republicans in congress have no intention of working with the White House on further help for the jobless, it's plenty clear now. If it wasn't already clear to the business community that the two parties absolutely hate each other and there is no reason to believe that Washington will be able to help the economy if what little recovery we have turns south, it's plenty clear now.

To paraphrase economist Brad DeLong, last night was one of those nights when you remember that even taking into account the fact that our political system is performing worse than you could possibly imagine, it's performing worse than you can possibly imagine. Washington has made many more consequential missteps than this one. But few of them have been so thoroughly depressing, so insistent on showing us us, with brutal clarity, what the greatest nation in the world has come to.

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