Thursday, January 2, 2014

Expect Nothing From the Government in 2014

Chances are the federal government won't do much of anything in 2014.  Neither party has control of the government, and neither has a coherent program in any event.  Republicans are at war with each other, with the mainstream and Tea Partiers wrestling for dominance.  Right now, the Republicans couldn't put together a coherent set of policies if they wanted to.

The President is playing defense, trying to get the federal health insurance exchange out of the ICU, contain the NSA surveillance scandal, deal with the Iranian nuclear program without another major American military commitment in the Middle East, pivot toward Asia, and bring the troops back from Afghanistan, all while avoiding a government shutdown from yet another lousy rerun of the debt ceiling crisis in early February.   The Democrats on the Hill are angling to keep their majority in the Senate and perhaps gain some seats in the House, but the administrative debacle with the sign-up process for the federal health insurance exchange has left Democrats facing re-election scrambling for cover.  That means distancing themselves from the President.  And that makes the formulation of a coherent set of Democratic policies pretty unlikely.

The mid-term elections this fall will drive doings in Washington.  That will mostly mean doing nothing.  In today's politics, everyone wants to be a critic, and no one wants to be a doer.  Critics get a lot of press coverage.  Doers are targeted by critics.  When you do something in Washington, you may benefit some people.  But you'll also damage the interests of others.  And they will dispense political contributions with a view to getting even.  It's safer to be a critic, verbally heave donkey dung at one's adversaries, and avoid actually doing anything.  You may not help anyone, but you also won't make a lot of enemies.  Voters gravitate toward those who tell them what they want to hear.  With today's grossly gerrymandered districts, critics have an easier time getting elected and staying that way. 

So expect little from the government this year.  Far right-wingers and hard-core libertarians may think this is a good thing.  But everyone who realizes that essentially the entire country--from the top 1% to those below the poverty line, from the big banks to the small businesses scrambling for an SBA loan, from parents who want safe toys for their kids to those who prefer not to eat tainted food to home buyers looking for a mortgage loan to anyone who is potentially exposed to communicable disease (and that excludes very few of us)--needs a functioning government must hope against hope for something more.

No comments: