The upshot: at a time when our and the world's economy are in serious crisis - at a time, in other words, in which government is more needed than ever - our representative government in the United States is incapable of performing.
Part of it is their own fault. The Senate is tied up because it has imposed upon itself a de facto requirement of 60 votes to pass controversial legislation. Constitutional scholar Lyle Denniston quotes Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon, not on the super-committee) as noting that the Constitution "only specifies a 'supermajority' for a limited list of Senate actions. Some of them are: ratification of treaties, conviction of a President in an impeachment trial, overriding presidential vetoes, approving constitutional amendments ..." Nowhere does the Constitution say that 60 votes are required for difficult or controversial legislation - indeed, I would argue that, the more pressing the need for some kind of legislation, the more illogical and counterproductive it is to require 60 votes. In addition to that requirement being extra-Constitutional.
But there is a deeper factor at work here, that goes beyond our elected representatives shooting themselves in their own feet. Representative democracy may well be floundering because we finally have the means, in the digital age, to govern ourselves, to discuss and vote upon pressing issues, directly.
If budgets were put to a direct majority up-or-down vote of the American people, surely one would soon get 50% of the vote plus one. Surely, in other words, a new budget would be soon be adopted.
The digital revolution - social media, or what I call "new new media" - have given us the means to do this. Occupy Wall Street and the the Arab Spring are the leading expression of this. Unsurprisingly, representative governments and dictatorships are alike in opposing these developments. But the tide of history is turning. The representative governments and the dictatorships will continue to decay, and the people will emerge triumphant, one hopes will less bloodshed overseas and less police brutality in the US, than we've seen so far.
Occupy Wall Street Chronicles, Part 1