Feb. 11, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Ornstein: Governance Takes Back Seat to Bickering

Please tell me it isn’t so. If it is, ask yourselves how this is going to contribute to finding the type of bipartisan resolution of our fiscal problems in a way that will encourage economic growth now instead of the austerity that has damaged Britain and the rest of Europe. How will it actually result in a long-term path to reduce our debt to more manageable levels?

Now a third gripe. We can and should have a vigorous debate about the size and scope of the federal government and about which programs should be expanded, which maintained, which reduced and which eliminated. But surely, the government we do have should be run efficiently and effectively for the people of the United States.

Let’s take one example: cybersecurity. We know the threats from China and elsewhere are real and immediate. We need top talent in government agencies to help counter them because we know the Chinese, Russians, Iranians, terror groups and others are employing top talent to damage us.

Please tell me how continued disparagement of federal employees — and continued and expanded pay freezes — will help us attract and retain top talent. Tell me how a sequester will help the many security-related agencies and other entities operate to focus on the threats.

And please tell me how the rolling confrontations — from the debt limit to the current year’s appropriations to next year’s spending, where managers in these agencies cannot tell from day to day, much less year to year, what their budgets will be — is helping the cause of better government. How can anyone plan under these conditions?

For far too many lawmakers, governance — basic governance to protect the nation and its people, which is the fundamental fiduciary responsibility for our elected officials — has taken a back seat to politics, mollifying ideologues, and fitting in with tribal norms. Is this really what you came to Congress to accomplish? For shame.

Norman Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

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