Sunday, February 21, 2010

"broken but can be fixed"

The notion that the U.S. government is "broken" is gaining wider currency, as evidenced in today's CNN Poll that found 81% of those surveyed agreeing that "Our system of government is broken but can be fixed," a 10% increase since October 2006, when that question had previously been asked. Most of the increase came from those who previously denied that the system was fractured.

I guess we should take some comfort from the "can be fixed" part of the response, since only 5% said the system was broken but "cannot be fixed."

So what are the fixes? As I've noted earlier, a healthy, growing economy will do more than any other single thing to restore trust and confidence in our system. Second, we need changes in our political culture, which now has too many incentives to fight rather than to bargain to agreements. Third, we need changes in Congress -- not only rules changes going far beyond the filibuster but also institutional changes to try to restore civility and mutual respect.

Retiring Senator Evan Bayh has some useful suggestions in an op-ed in today's New York Times. This week's health legislation summit, however, is a high-risk effort that is more likely to showcase disagreements than to generate compromises.

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