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|Tuesday, August 02, 2011|
By MARK THOMA
If you weren’t convinced already, the negotiations over the debt ceiling ought to have cleared up any doubt that Congress is becoming increasingly dysfunctional. But the debt negotiations are simply the latest and most extreme example of a trend on Capitol Hill toward the use of unbending rules, triggers, ticking bombs, and other devices to compensate for dysfunction and the inability to make progress on important issues.
One answer is that the press is not doing its job. The cost of extremism, such as building a debt-ceiling bomb that risks blowing up the economy, is very low. If there is little chance that bad press will harm reelection chances, and some reason to expect a gain, then why not take a chance on an extreme strategy with high potential benefits? Another answer is that increasing inequality and polarization that our emerging two-tiered society has generated have diminished the areas where there is common ground between the two sides. Thus, it is becoming more and more difficult to agree on anything.
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