That Congress’s newest rotten deal will be regarded as a bipartisan budget victory if it passes the Senate tells you everything you need to know about bad government in 2013. Our senators and representatives are preparing to head home with heads held high when they should be apologizing to the American people for a year of failed bills and bad deals. What Americans bought with their tax dollars was sold on Capitol Hill as the best we should expect given Washington’s historic dysfunction. A great country deserves great government. Our great country’s government is a travesty.
Are bad government and bad deals as good as it’s going to get?
Obamacare’s technical gaffes will go down as a historic failure of big government that we hope won’t be eclipsed when medical records wranglers start tossing around our personal information in earnest. There was a lot more to 2013 than health care, though, and it was nothing Congress should boast about.
The Senate spent way too much time on an immigration fix that proved Republicans are willing to trade conservative ideology for a try at the Hispanic vote. The bill looked to be dead in the House until this week. John Boehner’s attack on conservative groups criticizing the newest anti-shutdown deal raised the question of whether the GOP will buckle on immigration when Obama puts the screws to nervous legislators as midterm elections draw closer.
We got a bad, stopgap budget deal in October and will likely have a new deal at the end of the year leaving members of Congress explaining how more spending means less deficit. So how did the House segue from shutting down the government to buying into a lukewarm budget fix that will do little more than save face? The same way Democrats gave up hope for a Christmas unemployment benefits extension. Even in Washington fear for your job means compromise, even if it means selling out your constituents.
Some bills are written to fail.
There was still more to bad government in 2013. How much do we pay lawmakers to propose certain to fail bills simply to put themselves in the spotlight? Headline-grabbing political ploys meant gay and transgender workplace discrimination legislation, gun control efforts, and a bill to force House members to call illegals “undocumented” instead of “illegal.” We even saw a Democratic nod to Obamacare’s failed public option titled Public Option Deficit Reduction Act because everything is still about reducing the deficit. PR for the Senate immigration bill even borrowed the same deficit reduction language used for Obamacare (see: Popular Sovereignty Doesn’t Mean We Get What the People Want), but when push came to shove and cutting the deficit was on the table for real what did taxpayers get? A bad deal with a goal of $23 billion.
Bad deals in the Muslim Middle East, too.
What caused this year’s bad deals with countries in the Middle East? Is it fear that our actions will be misconstrued as religious intolerance? Is the Obama administration still convinced that George W. Bush’s actions alienated Muslim nations that want to be our friends, or is this just more of the failure of global leadership that has made U.S. foreign policy under Obama such a dangerous embarrassment?
Iran is threatening the U.S. over sanctions, feeling empowered by our willingness to forsake Israel in exchange for the promises of a country that has been on our State Sponsors of Terrorism roster for nearly thirty years. Syria beat Obama’s red line with a little help from Russia and a big loss of face for the U.S. and our president. Israel loses no matter what because America has proved to the world that our longtime ally can come second to a country that has threatened to destroy it.
A do-nothing government is better than bad government.
2013 raised the question of whether do-nothing government is better than bad government, whether the best bills are the ones that never escape from committee, and whether the best deals are the ones that are never made. Compared to what happens when Congress and the White House decide to do something, perhaps no progress, no deals, and failed bills are safer bets than getting something accomplished.