Ezra gives the middle finger to the worst congress ever:
What’s the record of the 112th Congress? Well, it almost shut down the government and almost breached the debt ceiling. It almost went over the fiscal cliff (which it had designed in the first place). It cut a trillion dollars of discretionary spending in the Budget Control Act and scheduled another trillion in spending cuts through an automatic sequester, which everyone agrees is terrible policy. It achieved nothing of note on housing, energy, stimulus, immigration, guns, tax reform, infrastructure, climate change or, really, anything. It’s hard to identify a single significant problem that existed prior to the 112th Congress that was in any way improved by its two years of rule.
The 112th, which was gaveled into being on Jan. 3, 2011, by newly elected House Speaker John Boehner, wasn’t just unproductive in comparison with the 111th. It was unproductive compared with any Congress since 1948, when scholars began keeping tabs on congressional productivity.***
The 112th found legislating so difficult that lawmakers repeatedly created artificial deadlines for consequences and catastrophes intended to spur them to act. But like Wile E. Coyote with his endless supply of Acme products, when the 112th set a trap, the only sure bet was that it would explode in its collective face, forcing leaders to construct yet another hair- trigger legislative contraption.
The near-shutdown of the federal government in early 2011 was the first of these self-detonated disasters, the near-breach of the debt ceiling in August 2011 was the most damaging, and the fiscal cliff was the dumbest. In each case, Congress mainlined a dose of fear and uncertainty into an economy already beset by too much of both. In each case, the deadline failed to spur responsibility; instead, Congress punted on hard decisions while setting up a new deadline to supplant the old, discarded one.
In that way, the 112th ended as it began: by creating a mess it couldn’t clean up. The resolution, such as it is, of the fiscal cliff simply sets up another fight in the weeks ahead over the debt ceiling and sequestration. Continued fear and uncertainty over the impending battle is the legacy of the 112th to the nation’s economy. Thanks, guys.
Unfortunately, I am under no illusion that the shit-show fail parade of a Republican led House will end with the 112th. I fully expect this new congress to be just as bad or worse, and with Boehner signalling today he is done negotiating with Obama, on this I am probably going to be right.
Buckle up, America. We’re on a big bus together and a drunk driver has the wheel.