Congress dithered while US withered

A line from legendary manager Casey Stengel fits the moment: “Can’t anybody here play this game?” He was talking about his hapless 1962 New York Mets, but the damning question can be fairly directed to both political parties and Washington itself.

In one of the most worrisome signs of our era, the federal government has never been larger, richer and wielded more power over the lives of citizens. The size, debt and reach are astounding when compared to just a generation ago.

Yet that bejeweled behemoth is failing miserably at many of its most basic duties. Public safety, border security, stable prices and quality public education are in decline, leaving many Americans angry about their government and cynical about the people who run it.

With little regard to the party of the president, polls in recent years consistently show only about three in 10 respondents believe the country is on the right track. More damning, a large Pew study last year revealed an enormous trust deficit.

Just two in 10 Americans believe the federal government does what it should, a low point in a decades-long decline. When the question was first asked in 1958, nearly 75% said they trusted the feds to do the right thing all or most of the time.

It is hard to imagine those days ever returning, with events of last week vividly demonstrating that both parties are hellbent on squandering the little goodwill that remains.

House Republicans amped up their bid to make conservatism a punchline as their inability to promptly choose a speaker made history in all the wrong ways.

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