At this time in 2011, Congress had passed 23 laws on the way toward the lowest total since those numbers began being tracked in 1948. This year, 15 have been passed so far.It's not that the nation has been humming along not needing the help, either. The supposedly too-asinine-to-implement sequester keeps humming along because now that Congress no longer has to wait slightly longer at the airport, it no longer is affecting anyone that important people give a damn about. Student loans, government furloughs (650,000 civilians in the Defense Department are next on the furlough block, which would be Big Freaking News in any environment not entirely under the control of morons) and yes, even the farm bill—all have gotten impressively botched via congressional inability to agree on just how much each hostage is worth, and they've ended up shooting every hostage when the demands proved too hard to work out. The implications of not being able to decide just how much we want to screw poor people (after we've fully ignored the unemployment rate and just before we've told the new batch of a half million people that we just don't feel like paying them for a while because that would require deciding stuff) continue to have economic effects both obvious and not:
[D]airy production is diminishing in the face of price and policy volatility. And in August, Brazil will get the green light to impose retaliatory tariffs on an array of American goods and services because Congress has not made the United States cotton program compliant with international trade law.Meanwhile a bored Eric Cantor now thinks we should screw all this budget-decidering and talk about abortion a bit, and John Boehner now considers his most pressing duty to be publicly downplaying the extent to which his caucus has become a legislative clown car.
So here's the question, the one that never quite seems to be pondered by the nice, respectable pundits and reporters who still can't help but notice how little Congress is able to do and how regular the little legislative oopsies and crash-landings and other fiascos are becoming. What's different? We've had partisan splits between the House and Senate before, they haven't resulted in a salting of the economic earth. We've had plenty of peeved legislators who have been very, very sad that the president is of the other party, and yet they've managed to pull themselves together long enough to do the basic functions of their job. "Divided government" is not sufficient explanation for a lack of legislative competence so complete that not accomplishing regular, critical tasks (debt ceilings, budgets, agricultural bills, government appointments, making sure we still have weather satellites in the near future or that the nice pretty bridges do not fall down) is now seen as more status quo than actually accomplishing those things.
Feel free to take a few guesses, Beltway types. You're supposed to be the experts here. I'm sure you'll come up with some reason for staggering economy-punishing congressional incompetence more compelling than the current "Barack Obama has not invited Republicans over to dinner often enough." I promise you, there's something going on here a bit more substantive than who's boozing it up with who.