America's Potemkin parliament

Washington’s governing systems are in a bad way. Government by “continuing resolution,” a term foreign to most foreigners, ought to be embarrassing to any self-governing, not to say self-respecting, people. Instead, in the course of the “shutdown,” this repugnant phrase advanced to acronymic status — “CR,” as cable news had it, the pundit class lovingly caressing this latest insider jargon with their customary onanistic shiver. Presented as a resolution of the Obamacare/debt-ceiling standoff, the “CR” came, as the car dealers say, fully loaded — including a $174,000 payment to the widow of New Jersey’s multimillionaire senator Frank Lautenberg. Because, even when you’re saddling the next generation of Americans with another trillion bucks of debt, six-figure payouts to the relicts of the most exclusive rich man’s club in America is just the way it is.

How can you “control” spending under such a system? Congress has degenerated into a Potemkin parliament, its ersatz nature embodied by those magnificent speeches senators give to themselves, orating for the benefit of TV sound bites into the cavernous silence of an empty room, an upper chamber turned isolation chamber. The “law of the land” means machinations and procedural legerdemain culminating in a show vote on unread omnibus fill-in-the-blanks pseudo-legislation to be decided after the fact by the regulatory bureaucracy.