I agree with Matt Miller: (needless) disaster averted, decline embraced.

>>So this is what we've driven the global economy and America's credit rating to the brink for? ...

This is the best the White House could salvage after inexplicably failing to insist that the debt ceiling be raised as part of December's deal to extend the Bush tax cuts -- which would have let the country avoid this unprecedented exercise in self-inflicted damage?

If you put aside the talking points both sides will peddle, the disappointing contours of the emerging endgame run as follows:

First, Washington will do nothing more to boost jobs and growth. The best that can be said is that the spending cuts will be tiny in the next two years, so the feds won't be contracting demand, save for the end of the stimulus. Our epic jobs crisis remains ignored.

Next -- as to long-term deficit reduction, supposedly the reason the GOP put the country through this costly fiasco -- the deal remains utterly inadequate, even if the joint congressional committee the plan would empower to address this succeeds.<<

America will no doubt muddle through, as it has done so often before. There is so much going on in this country other than public affairs -- so many of the daily details of people's lives that are promising, tender, inventive, rewarding, all for reasons that have nothing to do with national politics. It's a principle similar to the one I observed so often in China: in Beijing there might be tensions over this or that new crackdown, but in Shenzhen on Linyi or Changsha or Kunming people were having fun and dreaming big dreams.

Still, the major steering decisions in national policy make a difference in the long term. It made a difference, for the good, that the United States adopted the GI Bill, and set up the Land-Grant Universities. It made a difference, for the bad, that California passed Proposition 13. In the short run, the "bargain" just agreed to offers worse than no hope for addressing the really urgent problem of the moment, harmfully high unemployment. And in the long run, this has been as sobering a case study of a great nation misusing its resources, distracting itself from real problems, and discrediting its political system in the world's eyes as... as I can remember. No "foreign threat" has been involved here. Not a "rising power," like China. Not a "non-state menace," like some terrorist. We did this all ourselves.

I hope things will look better tomorrow.