Our Fantasy: A Congress that Gets Stuff Done

Editor’s Note: Thomas E. Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Norman J. Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, are the authors of “

It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism

,” which comes out as an expanded paperback Tuesday September 3, 2013.

A little more than a year ago, we published a book about American politics — and particularly Congress — titled “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.” In our book and in these pages, we lamented the ideological divides in Washington, which had become almost tribal in nature, and the skewed nature of political polarization, emphasizing a Republican Party gone off the rails.

Unfortunately, little has happened in the time since to lift our spirits. But we can always fantasize, right? For a moment, we want to rise above the pessimism about politics that permeates the capital and the nation and imagine a best-case scenario for what might happen when Congress returns from its August recess.

The challenges are daunting: economic growth too slow to counter high unemployment and stagnant wages, inadequate investment in job training and infrastructure that could boost prospects for the working and middle classes, and long-term fiscal imbalances flowing from an aging society and rising health-care costs.

View the full text of The Washington Post op-ed. »