In a new column for the Financial Times I argue that the US is heading towards a government shutdown because--despite universal protests to the contrary--hardly anybody in DC actually cares that much about reducing the long-term budget deficit. If they did care, consensus would be easy to reach. But they don't. Obama has decided that fiscal lassitude is good politics, and Republicans have their own priorities as well:
Under the influence of the recent influx of small-government zealots, the Republican majority cares first about hacking indiscriminately at short-term non-entitlement spending (thus ignoring both the spending categories that matter and the still-fragile state of the economy), second about blocking tax increases of any kind under any circumstances, and third about getting Mr Obama out of the White House. Public borrowing is something they deplore, but not as much as big government, and not as much as taxes.
The most pernicious thing is that each side expects voters to punish the other if a shutdown happens...
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