For an illustration of why Americans are so disgusted with Washington, you can't do better than Congress' farcical response to the Zika virus. Amid warnings that the mosquito-borne pathogen would inevitably reach the U.S. mainland, President Obama asked in February for $1.9 billion to fund rapid-response teams to limit outbreaks, improve diagnostic tests, control mosquito populations, and develop a vaccine. After months of wrangling, the Senate passed a "clean," bipartisan $1.1 billion funding bill. But House Republicans rejected it and proposed their own version, filling it with partisan land mines. The bill called for defunding parts of ObamaCare, and cutting a program providing contraception to low-income women and men. Democrats balked and the bill died. Now Zika — which can cause birth defects and neurological problems — has arrived in Miami, and Congress has adjourned for its seven-week summer vacation. See you in September!
Irresponsibility of this kind should outrage the nation, but our stores of outrage are largely spent. Members of the House and Senate turn every issue into partisan Kabuki theater — a ritual performance of ideological difference in which real-world problems are never solved. And so the status of 11 million undocumented immigrants goes unaddressed. Crumbling bridges and roads remain unrepaired. Social Security and other entitlements go unreformed. A proposal to prevent people on terrorist watch lists from buying firearms dies in committee. The Zika battle is starved of funding. On and on it goes, even as these public servants spend much of their time fundraising for their next re-election campaign. When Donald Trump supporters are asked why they support someone so rude and reckless, they say, "Washington is broken. We need someone who's a little crazy to shake it up." Even if their choice of medicine is questionable, you can't argue with the diagnosis.