Elected officials in the nation's capital have spent the past several weeks demonstrating that they can't do the jobs voters sent them there to do. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers got into an extended spat that
Granted, the government shutdown and the HealthCare.gov meltdown happened for very different reasons. The former was a result of a cynical and ill-conceived gambit by House Republicans, who tried to force changes in
The overarching message to the public, however, is the same in both instances: Your leaders are incompetent.
And the people are listening. Gallup reports that Congress' approval rating sank to an abysmal 11% during the shutdown, after rebounding slightly from its record low of 10% in February. President Obama, meanwhile, has seen his approval rating slide steadily this year to 39%, nearing the low point of his tenure. Dwindling faith in government has contributed to a pessimism about the economy that discourages consumer spending, the lifeblood of U.S. growth. According to surveys, the relentless stream of bad news out of Washington last month coincided with sharp drops in consumers' hopes for the economy and their confidence about the future.
The administration can undo some of the damage by fixing HealthCare.gov soon, giving people ample time to shop before policies are supposed to go into effect Jan. 1. But Washington faces another potential shutdown and default early next year, when the temporary measures enacted in mid-October expire. The best way for lawmakers to avoid a replay of last month's debacle would be to strike a deal before the end of the year that keeps federal agencies operating and the Treasury paying its bills.