A while ago there was an interesting discussion on the web about whether it’s possible for interest rates to be negative. You put a dollar in the bank at minus 3 percent interest and get back 97 cents after a year. Why would anybody do that when the mattress option is available? Strange economic times breed strange questions like this. And strange political times raise a similar question: Can an institutional approval rating go below zero? Because Congress is almost there.
As a rule, I am fairly cynical about the constant criticism of “Washington” from politicians (most of them trying to get or stay there), media talking heads, and ordinary citizens. It’s cheap and just another way to pass the buck. At this point, taking a poke or two at “Washington” is almost required throat-clearing in any speech by anyone on any subject. People say that “Washington” ignores the country’s needs and wishes, because it is too concerned with protecting its own power and wealth. This is a fairly incoherent complaint, since the best way to keep your power and/or wealth in Washington is to figure out what the citizens want and give it to them. The real problem that people outside of Washington have with people inside Washington, whether they realize it or not, is that the Washington insiders are not alchemists. They don’t fail to deliver what the citizens demand out of indifference to the wishes of the citizens. They fail to deliver what people want because, short of turning lead into gold, it’s impossible. Lower my taxes, cut the deficit, and don’t touch my Medicare.