It’s the spending, stupid

The most important and startling number in American politics today is Congress’s approval rating: 23%. This is a no-confidence vote. The second branch of government is losing the country. Surely it’s about the spending. What else? That Congress hasn’t spent enough?

If voters give control of the House to the GOP, the party desperately needs to establish credibility on spending. Absent that, little else is possible. Independent voters now know that the national Democratic Party, hopelessly joined to the public-sector unions, will never stabilize public outlays.

In a sense, the GOP’s impending victory is meaningless, a win by default. If the Republican rookies entering Congress next year don’t do something identifiably real to stop the federal-spending balloon, voters two years from now will start throwing the GOP under the bus. Absent action, the political rage and cynicism on offer in 2012 could make this year’s tea parties look like, well, a tea party.