Whether or not you like the debt deal--and few people do--it does show that our constitutional system worked. Mostly, it's a messy, messy process, but the separation of powers built into the Constitution was designed to force compromise and allow a minority view to become the majoritarian policy. Here, we had one-half of one-third of the federal government (that is, the House) steering the entire ship. And it was a minority of the House to boot. For the past few decades, scholars have worried about the increasing power of the Executive Branch--not an issue in this case.
But just because the process worked doesn't mean you have to like the outcome. As Fareed Zakaria's cover story points out, the resulting deal is an example of pain-free short-termism that doesn't get at our long-term problems or even our biggest short-term one, which is a stalled economy. To fix the debt crisis, we've got to do more than just cut. Do the math: you can't get there just by subtracting. The solution involves cuts, revenue and growth. None of them alone can solve the problem.
I worry that the debt deal will usher in an era of ever more perilous legislative brinkmanship. As Michael Crowley's story about the Tea Party makes clear, its members were the big victors here. The lesson for some is that intransigence works, so why wouldn't legislators on the left adopt that attitude? The crisis is put into historical context by Joe Klein, who harks back to the '60s and '70s to show that society was much more divided then--though Congress was not. Now the culture is less fractious, but the political process is more so.
Richard Stengel, MANAGING EDITOR