We’re looking for a surprise in January

Those surveys that show people approve of their own Congressman but disapprove of Congress in general have come home to roost. The disconnect in the statistics shows up when all those home-district-approved representatives and Senators butt heads with one another.

The result is an all-or-nothing-at-all government that is dysfunctional at best and a national disaster at its worst. And, we include President Barack Obama here, too, with his “no negotiations” stance throughout the budget and debt standoff of the past few weeks. The people’s Congress, dysfunctional and confused as it is, has problems with the president’s policies and needs to be heard. But majority rule also applies.

The issue isn’t winning and losing. Nor has the U.S. government been about winner take all for most of its history, save the bloodletting known as the Civil War.

In the current case, it’s not region against region, and we cannot figure out what breaking the nation’s back would prove for either side.

The sole pleasure in seeing the can kicked down the road to the dead of winter is the preservation for a time of a functioning nation that should be the world’s leader in freedom and economic vitality.

The ongoing winner-take-all mentality at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, from the Oval Office to the two chambers of Congress which are split into three factions now, did not change. The underlying issues that cause the nation to be on the brink of economic disaster requiring the eternal raising of its borrowing authority did not change.

Obamacare did not change. The fact that the federal government is involved in way more than it should be did not change. The fact that spending has been out of control for a generation didn’t change. And none of those issues can be changed overnight.

Congress created and Obama agreed to the sequester cuts nearly two years ago in hopes they would be so Draconian no one in their right mind would let them occur. But ideological heels were dug in, compromises were not possible and the impossible became the law of the land in the spring. It remains so amid the bickering Band-Aid solution.

The fiscal can was kicked down the road last fall and again in the spring, all with promises of supercommittees and various negotiating schemes to occur. All fell apart rapidly, with more angst and dysfunction as the next deadline approached on the nation’s default.

The underlying issues were laid bare this time. A nation that borrows too much on every dollar’s worth of revenue it brings in has to decide what it really wants. Does it want to continue borrowing until it cannot avoid default even if it tries to borrow more? Or does it want to trim its budgets to match revenues? That will take actual compromise, not a winner-take-all attitude, where some suffering will be spread among all factions. And the amount of cutting needed gets more painful with each season of delay.

But we’d assume compromise remains impossible, given the collapses every time the real issues started being discussed. And we’d assume theater is more important to the White House and Congress even when they recognize they’re doing nothing constructive and are not willing to push the economic disaster button.

We’ll be back at this again in January, with another default looming in February unless both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue can compromise, something they’ve failed at so far during this administration.

We hope for better but really have no expectations rooted in reality.

Here’s to a January surprise.