Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Are We Stuck With a Powerless Government?

Despite its image as an overbearing ogre, the federal government may be largely powerless these days.  The President has managed to undercut himself with an astonishingly bad non-launch of the federal health insurance exchange.  Is there anyone in his administration with executive or management ability?  Could anyone in his administration succeed as evening shift supervisor at the local McDonald's? 

On the foreign policy front, the President managed to set his foot downrange and pull the trigger over Syria's use of poison gas.  Only an embarrassing intervention by Russia prevented the President from a real morass of a morass.  Now, the administration touts a deal with Iran to freeze its nuclear program, even though it can continue to enrich uranium to the 5% level.  Not very frozen, but perhaps global warming is having an impact.  One wonders whether this deal with Iran is a sign of strength or weakness on the part of the President.

Meanwhile, over on Capitol Hill, Congress remains essentially non-functional.  The Democratically controlled Senate was able to approve the appointment of a few judges by changing its rules, although scowling Republicans made many dire and threatening predictions that the Dems would be sorry for doing this.  Nothing like a love fest to make folks feel collegial.  As for the federal budget and the debt ceiling, they aren't likely to trigger new crises, but will be resolved by kicking the can down the road.

The only institution that seems to be doing anything is the Federal Reserve.  And even it may be losing some of its mojo.  The most recently released minutes of the Open Market Committee meeting in October have been interpreted to mean that the Fed may be thinking about pulling back soon on quantitative easing.  Antacid sales on Wall Street have jumped.  If the efficacy of Fed money printing is diminishing, we may find ourselves in a public policy Sahara with very few water holes.

A powerful government can be scary.  A powerless one can be scarier.  The problem is this isn't a horror movie and we can't get up and leave the theater if we don't like the show.

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