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Do-Nothing Congress Is Your Fault

Author: Peter R. Orszag, Adjunct Senior Fellow
July 15, 2014
Bloomberg.com

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The most important problem facing our national government is political polarization, because it makes governing virtually impossible -- unless one party can dominate the House, Senate and White House.

What's driving the problem? One view, favored by political scientist Alan Abramowitz of Emory University, is that Americans are growing more polarized and their increasingly extreme differences are reflected in Congress. Another view, associated with Morris Fiorina of Stanford University, is that polarization in Congress stems more from a disconnect between politicians and the general public. (By the way, both camps reject the view propounded on cable television: that gerrymandering is the main cause.)

I have long put my chips down on the Abramowitz side. And two new analyses suggest I've made a good bet.

The first, from the Pew Research Center, shows that the share of Democrats with very unfavorable opinions of Republicans, and the share of Republicans with very unfavorable opinions of Democrats, has risen to about 40 percent, from about 16 percent 20 years ago. And today, more than a quarter of Democrats and more than a third of Republicans believe that the other party is a "threat to the nation's well-being."

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