Excellent article in yesterday’s NYTimes explaining why hoping for a grand budget bargain (cut entitlements, raise taxes to get our fiscal house in order) is farfetched in the near term: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/19/us/politics/the-hidden-hurdles-to-a-fiscal-grand-bargain.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&rref&hpw
And it’s not for the reasons most would expect. It’s established doctrine that the right will push back against raising taxes on the wealthy; the left will refuse to cut Social Security/Medicare.
But now it seems Capitol Hill’s dysfunction/inability to deal with big problems is manifesting itself in heretofore unseen ways: GOP doesn’t want to be seen as the party of cutting granny’s Medicare as the older demographic is their most loyal voting base and the Dems are tired of being typecast as tax-and-spend liberals trying to take from the higher-income demographic they need to grow their base. Add to that a weakened president heading for lame duck status, upcoming mid-term elections, a slowly improving economy (lessening the demands for spending reform) and an increasingly polarized Washington and you can kiss a hope for finding a Simpson-Bowles-ish Big Fix anytime soon goodbye.
All the more reason to figure out ways to get grown-up, centrist voices a seat at the table. The binary, right-left, all-or-nothing, zero sum politics of Washington and in many states can’t work. Finding space for mature leaders who aren’t in fear of a primary back home to do the right thing should be a critical goal for our politics.