U.S. Capitol police stand outside the Capitol building as the Senate votes on debt ceiling legislation to avoid a historic default at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2023 (via Reuters)
The Politics of Avoidance

According to President Biden, “the American people got what they needed” in the recent much ballyhooed budget agreement. More accurately, Congress got what it needed: an escape from a contrived and utterly unnecessary crisis. 

While the deal allows Americans to breathe a collective sigh of relief—the government has decided after all to pay its bills—let’s not kid ourselves. It solves nothing, merely kicking further down the road a disconcerting reality that few in Washington are even willing to acknowledge:  our so-called “indispensable nation” finds itself increasingly hard-pressed to manage its own affairs, much less the world’s. 

Future historians will marvel at how swiftly the United States fell from the pinnacle to which it ascended with the collapse of communism in the 1980s. Embedded in the so-called budget crisis are insights into how it happened so quickly. Not least among them is the collaboration between politicians and the media to imbue an essentially theatrical event with a veneer of seriousness.

What are the sources of the dysfunction that afflicts present-day Washington? Chief among them is a habit of pretending that facts aren’t facts. Attributed in particular to Donald Trump, this tendency is by no means limited to the former president, with his habit of labeling as “fake news” aspects of reality that he finds unwelcome or inconvenient.  

Read the full piece in Commonweal Magazine.

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