The bad news is that the situation in Washington is deteriorating so fast that it seems necessary to have more frequent snapshots of the decline. So here goes what may become, at least for a while, a daily (or nearly daily) update.
The bad news today is that you probably can see all there is to see.
There are at least a couple of high-class restaurants in Washington where the kitchen is visually open to the dining floor. These restaurants have survived, and even prospered, because (among other things) they deliver great food.
Looking at the fiscal cliff goings on, however, conjures up restaurants with the same physical plant–only manufacturing and serving cheap sausage.
A group of budget-wonk friends (not an oxymoron) gathered this morning, and no one among the group was aware of any behind-the-scenes negotiation. (A few had been told explicitly that nothing was going on behind the scenes.) All exchanges of information and offers appear to be taking place on television or Twitter. What you see is what the nation gets. I am all for transparency, but it will take something longer than 140 characters to get us out of this mess.
But seriously, folks, the 140 characters aren’t the real problem, of course. The issue is that a resolution will require both parties giving up some things that they have promised to defend; and that will not happen in public. It will require some serious and frank horse-trading that can happen only in smoke-filled rooms (whether the smoke is coming from cigarettes or people’s ears). Until we get to that stage, don’t look for an agreement. Nothing that is offered in public is serious in that sense.
Still, it was positive to see the Republican counter-offer yesterday. The two sides are getting the aggression out of their systems. Next step: Get to work.