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Same As The Old Boss?

News out of Washington the last 24 hours or so is that the outline of a budget and debt ceiling deal may be coming into focus, with all the right features (tax increases advertised as “revenue enhancements” and “out-year” savings that will evaporate into the summer DC humidity as soon as the ink is dry) to make conservatives wary of signing on. Stay tuned; this has a ways to go yet.

It is in Obama’s interest to get a budget deal of some kind. His approval ratings and political standing a year and a half out from the next election look shaky. Congressional Republicans are in a strong position to hang tough, and they should certainly do so. A budget deal isn’t likely to improve public regard for Congress, but on the other hand, poor congressional approval ratings seldom are a major factor in House and Senate election contests. The individual dynamics of each district and individual candidate usually count much more. In other words, Obama has more to lose if a deal collapses than the House GOP does.

Is this entirely new for Congress to be seen in low regard? Consider this complaint about Congress from an eminent person:

In simple truth, I get discouraged sometimes about the stability of popular government. I come in contact with the abject surrender of public men to what appears to be about one-half of one percent of the voters to whom they look to their commission to public service. What the country needs more than anything else is a House and Senate for ten years which give at least as much thought to the welfare of the Republic as is given to individual candidates for re-election. Nothing so disheartens me as to have an extended conference with men in responsible places, hear them admit of the correctness of a policy or position, and then frankly say it is impossible to go through with the policy or maintain the position and be assured of re-election. I have concluded that I would vastly prefer a limited career with the consciousness of having done the right thing than to hold on to the constitutional limit by playing to the favor of those who do the fake work under our political system.

And just who is the author of this familiar-sounding reflection? President Warren Harding, in 1921.

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