It's darkest before the dawn and all that, but today's NYT story about party gridlock is enough to get folks good and nervous. Here's the nut:
After decades of warnings that budgetary profligacy, escalating health care costs and an aging population would lead to a day of fiscal reckoning, economists and the nation's foreign creditors say that moment is approaching faster than expected, hastened by a deep recession that cost trillions of dollars in lost tax revenues and higher spending for safety-net programs. Yet rarely has the political system seemed more polarized and less able to solve big problems that involve trust, tough choices and little short-term gain. The main urgency for both parties seems to be about pinning blame on the other, before November's elections, for deficits now averaging $1 trillion a year, the largest since World War II relative to the size of the economy.
William Hoagland, a former Republican adviser, wonders if the country is even governable. Former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson says, "We are at a point right now where it doesn't make a damn whether you're a Democrat or a Republican if you've forgotten you're an American." The only way out of the mess is to raise revenues - and that means tax increases, which at this point is considered a nonstarter. Besides, with the worst of the fiscal crisis still years away and with the economy going nowhere fast, there's little short-term political benefit of pushing for higher taxes.