Fact is, the nation’s leaders can’t get it done. Here are three reasons why:

Polarization. The National Journal’s 2010 congressional vote ratings showed that the overall level of congressional polarization last year was the highest the index has recorded. “The results,” wrote my colleague Ron Brownstein, “document another leap forward in the fusion of ideology and partisanship that has remade Congress over the past three decades, the period tracked by NJ’s vote ratings.”
Special interests. Influence-peddling is not new to Washington but it has reached new levels: Cronyism and pay-to-play schemes are part of the institutional order, with vast amounts of barely regulated political donations greasing the wheels.
Inertia. In all its history, Congress has tended to wait until there is a crisis to act. While few people doubt that the nation is headed toward a fiscal calamity, the do-or-die moment is not here yet. Automatic cuts that come with the super committee’s failure don’t kick in until 2013. Bond markets still value U.S. credit. The wheels are wobbly, but they haven’t come off.