by JONATHAN RAUCH
A funny thing happened on the way to legislative gridlock and fiscal meltdown in the past few years. In paralyzed, polarized Washington, where Democrats refuse to reduce spending without revenue increases that Republicans peremptorily reject, Democrats have accepted spending cuts, Republicans have accepted tax increases, and deficits have come down.
It is true that all of that happened in an ugly, piecemeal fashion, with the two parties lurching from one self-created crisis to another. At one stage, Republicans seemed willing to default on the national debt rather than compromise; at another, an automatic “sequestration” cut spending in what everyone agreed was a nonsensical fashion. Instead of joining hands in the grand bargain so ardently desired by pundits and much of the public, Congress and President Obama fought their way through a series of stopgaps, each of them greeted as disappointing if not appalling.
Yet the results bear pondering. The cumulative effect of Washington’s serial muddling has been to stabilize the national debt as a share of gross domestic product over the coming decade, according to Congressional Budget Office projections. The resulting level, by many accounts, is still too high, and more remains to be done about long-term increases in health-care spending and other entitlement costs. But the near-term debt emergency is over.
A very long article but well worth reading.