Bill Murchison
What's this? Joe Biden in weekend conversation with Mitch McConnell over how to step back from the fiscal cliff? Isn't Biden the man in charge of solving The Gun Problem? How does he have the time or energy -- not least the ideas -- to launch another rescue mission?

Apparently he had none of these. Not much came, reportedly, of the Biden-McConnell negotiations. One is struck anyway by an infinitely larger question -- how did we as a society, as a nation, get to this point: wrapped in suspense while the government of the United States works out, or tries to, the solutions to our greatest problems?

The government? Joe Biden? The Senate? The House? The presidency? The courts? What has a structural arrangement devised for the maintenance of ordered liberty got to do, legitimately, with all it's got to do with?

On Monday morning, the talk in Washington, D. C. -- a city named for a president with entirely modest aspirations when it came to power -- revolved around more than late-night negotiations.

Matters such as income levels, "chained CPI," alternative-minimum tax patches and Medicare payments, swam before the eyes of our elected representatives who, understandably, looked goggle-eyed as they rehearsed their arguments or recounted their labors. The New York Times highlighted Illinois Democrat Richard J. Durbin's account of the proceedings: "It looks awful."

That might be because it is : predictably so. Americans have had a good if unsettling look at the number of patch jobs necessary to make the pistons of modern government move with anything resembling regularity.

It was no wonder on Monday morning nothing was getting done. To switch metaphors, the pieces of the puzzle scattered on the respective floors of Congress' two Houses are infinite in size, variety and configuration. Who's able to assemble so great a number of pieces in the manner best suited to the needs of a diverse nation?

The trouble here is obvious. Anyway, it becomes so with a little thought. The bigger the policy questions at stake become, the more numerous the stakeholders become; thus, the dimmer grow the prospects for reconciliation of variant viewpoints. Everybody wants his piece of the action. In a democracy, that means, everybody gets it.

If you've gathered by now this is an anti-big government sermon, you have certainly gathered correctly. Americans perennially bat back and forth the arguments over big government's costs and who ought to pay them. How about introducing into the mix the topic of big government's basic unworkability? Too big to pay for equals too big to work. Can there be any doubt of it?


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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