By Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuck
Is the American political system broken? After months of wrangling, Republicans and Democrats remain unable to reach an agreement to raise the nation's debt ceiling in exchange for spending cuts.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, couldn't find common ground with President Barack Obama-or, reportedly, with other House Republicans.
Meantime, liberals fiercely criticized Obama for his apparent concessions to the GOP. The financial markets winced and Americans expressed their frustration to pollsters.
Can American democracy solve America's problems? Is there a better way to do business? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.
The debt limit debate is only the latest, greatest manifestation of America's broken politics. For more than two years, President Obama has faced unprecedented Republican obstacles to getting executive branch appointees and federal district judges confirmed. The day-to-day business of government is increasingly going undone because the GOP is happy to obstruct for obstruction's sake.
Why is this the case? Partly because the two major political parties are more ideologically coherent than ever ― there are no more conservative Democrats like Scoop Jackson or liberal Republicans like Lincoln Chaffee in Congress. Politicians are less willing and less able to compromise, for fear the other side will get credit.
The problem is compounded by the divided control of Congress, where Republicans have the House and Democrats hold the Senate. Add the Senate filibuster into the mix and there are simply too many procedural roadblocks to getting even the simplest things done.
Maybe it's time to scrap the system, and start over again with a parliamentary democracy.
As commentator David Frum noted on Twitter recently, ``We're getting a good real-life poli-sci lesson as to why so few other democracies have adopted U.S. separation of powers idea."
He's right: In parliamentary democracies, one party ― or a coalition of parties ― captures control of parliament and appoints a prime minister.
It controls all the levers of government, and is thus responsible for everything that happens (and doesn't happen) on its watch.
It's no coincidence that a country like Britain was able to slash its budget a year ago, while American politicians are still dithering.
Here, politicians spend inordinate amounts of energy figuring out how to deny credit and pin blame on the other side; in the U.K., voters know exactly who is responsible.
Yes, the Founders wanted separation of powers ― but what we've ended up with is an abdication of responsibility. Maybe it's time to toss aside our broken machinery of government and start over.
The system is broken, without question. But don't blame the Founders.
And, please, spare us the fate of those countries with parliamentary systems where a vote of no confidence can upset the government at any time. We don't want to be France, Canada or, heaven forbid, Italy.
We want to be America, which demands restoring the principles upon which this republic was founded. Easier said than done, sure. The rules and laws that make reform seemingly impossible are the result of more than a century of concerted effort by factions who thought they could improve on Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Washington, Adams, and the rest.
They couldn't. The Progressive Era experiments of a century ago gave us the New Deal and the Great Society ― and virtually unlimited government run by unaccountable bureaucrats subject to very little oversight from Congress or the administrations they ostensibly serve.
Roll back outmoded and inexplicable laws and regulation, rein in some of the president's powers, oblige Congress to legislate and not simply delegate its legislation to federal agencies ― for starters. That requires a shift in public opinion from cynicism to more active citizenship. (Tea, anyone?)
At the moment, Congress and President Obama are locked in what looks like mortal combat over how to cut government spending and safely raise our breathtaking $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. Fear and anxiety has a grip on Washington, a grip on the bond markets, a grip on pollsters.
The fear and anxiety have the same name: ``Default."
We won't default. The U.S. Treasury currently collects enough each month in taxes and fees to meet its interest obligations and mail Social Security checks on time. So ``default" is a political gambit one side is trying to use against the other.
That's politics. We can never take politics out of the process. But we can change public opinion and elect better politicians.
Ben Boychuk (firstname.lastname@example.org) is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal. Joel Mathis (email@example.com) is a writer and blogger in Philadelphia.)
Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis blog daily at www.infinitemonkeysblog.com and joelmathis.blogspot.com.