Bill Murchison
To quote The New York Times: There is across the land "both pessimism and cynicism about the state of [federal debt ceiling] negotiations in Washington, resignation about the partisan jousting, and more confusion than conniption about what exactly will happen" if there's no deal by Aug. 2.

Take, for instance, Stephanie Perone of San Francisco, "who was drinking wine with a friend during Friday's happy hour. 'I have no interest in it ... it's just the same thing over and over.'"

Well, maybe not, Ms. Perone, but it's easy enough to see why the crowd in the stadium is less than smitten with the efficiency of the players down on the field. That would be because the crowd is so vast and mixed and contradictory in its impulses as to make the players wonder how much they can get by with actually doing.

The politicians are committed formally to doing their best for us, but they can't figure out as a body what we want, inasmuch as we appear to want everything: tax, spend, cut, raise, go to work, go away.

We learn, not for the first time, that big government in a democratic society sometimes doesn't work worth a ... choose your own term of opprobrium.

The main thing is, it doesn't work. There's too much of it. You can't manipulate the constantly moving pieces in order to achieve general satisfaction. Someone's always displeased, not to mention mad enough to fling you out of office and replace you.

The present mess in Washington has less to do with money than with the things our money has been buying: regulation of business, subsidized mortgages, health insurance for all, subsidies for the elderly, subsidies to farmers, student loans, consumer protection, the advancement and affirmation of social outsiders (long after they've ceased to be outsiders), bread and circus games for anyone left out of all the fun. Liberal politicians are largely responsible for the vast superstructure of federal benevolence, but conservatives have gotten in their own licks, e.g., ethanol subsidies for independent or Republican Iowa farmers.

Once you've got all this stuff, how do you take any of it away: never mind the dimensions of the national debt? You talk about reform, but reform rarely gets past the talking stage.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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