Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Five reasons Washington no longer works

What’s wrong with Washington?  Why is it so difficult for Congress to get anything done?  Darrell M. West, Vice President and Director, Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and Founding Director, Center for Technology Innovation gives us five reasons Washington no longer works.

Super-Majority Requirements in the U.S. Senate: The dramatic increase in real or threatened filibusters in the U.S. Senate has moved American democracy from majority to super-majority rule. In order to move forward with important legislation or presidential appointments, it takes at least 60 of the 100 senators to reach agreement. This is virtually impossible to achieve in a situation where there is a vast philosophic gulf between Republicans and Democrats…

Extreme Politics in the U.S. House of Representatives: American democracy is based on bargaining and compromise. When political leaders have fundamentally different visions regarding the role of government, they must negotiate their differences if there is to be any significant legislation. The emergence in the House of Republican conservatives unwilling to consider tax increases on the wealthy or closing of corporate loopholes and Democratic liberals who won't touch entitlement programs prevents leaders from taking action to reduce the deficit in meaningful ways…

Excessive Political Polarization Across the Country: The United States has the most polarized politics that we have seen in a number of decades. Republicans and Democrats are suspicious of one another and have radically different views about major policy decisions. They get news from media outlets that play to political extremes and develop their own sets of facts…

Partisan Redistricting in American Elections: The rise of extremist politics arises from legislative redistricting that creates homogenous districts which are not politically competitive… This frees legislators from voter accountability and allows them to take extreme views without fear of electoral reprisal.

Low Voter Turnout Encourages Political Leaders to Play to the Base: Only around 40 percent of eligible Americans vote in congressional elections and 60 percent vote in presidential races. These low turnout rates create incentives for Republicans to play to conservatives and Democrats to focus on liberals.

Bottom line:  Our system of government no longer works.  Is it time to try something new?  Maybe.  I’ll have more to say about that in a later post.  Tune in.

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