"What does not change / is the will to change"
--Charles Olson, "The Kingfishers"

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Dysfunction and delusion in Washington

The lede on today's sequestration story in The New York Times sums up the problem with the current debate over the federal budget fairly well:

Seventeen months after President Obama signed doomsday budget legislation that was never intended to become law, the sweeping spending reductions in the measure have been imposed.
The issue here is not just that the "sweeping budget reductions," as the Times calls them, are now taking place, or that they will damage a fragile (at best) economic recovery. The issue is that the entire sequestration process was a sham that underscores how broken our political system has become.

And what better way to express this issue than by admitting that a law passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president "was never intended to become law."

To rephrase: The president signed a law that was not supposed to be law. And now we have both sides accusing the other of bad faith as we wait for the painful cuts to take effect -- with Republicans like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie saying it is up to the president to strike a compromise (why is it he only weighs in on national issues, aside from Sandy, when he can do damage to Democrats?) or John Boehner saying the House had done its part (what, by sitting on the sidelines for the last two months?).

Let me say, up front, that I think the blame here is with the Republicans, though I want to add that Democratic failures in 2011 helped lay the ground for a bad compromise.

But none of that really matters now. What we have is foolish legislation taking effect that both sides admit they never wanted to take effect. That, for me, is the definition of delusional.

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