WASHINGTON -- To say that Congress looked like a clown show this week is an insult to self-respecting clowns.
Painful though it may be, let's review what just happened. Our august legislators -- aided and abetted by President Obama -- manufactured a fake crisis. They then proceeded to handle it so incompetently that they turned it into a real one.
The bogus "fiscal cliff" -- and please, let's never, ever use those words again -- was designed as a doomsday mechanism to force Congress and the president to make tough decisions. But resistance to the very concept of decision-making was so fierce that our leaders could only manage to avoid hurtling to their doom, and ours, by deciding not to decide much of anything.
The slash-and-burn budget cuts that would have taken effect Jan. 1 were delayed by only two months. This means we will soon be going back into sky-is-falling crisis mode -- at the same time we're bumping up against the federal debt ceiling, which must be raised in order to avoid default. So before winter ends, our leaders will be at it again.
Almost everyone, liberal and conservative, agrees that some spending cuts are needed but that they should never be imposed in such a ham-fisted, indiscriminate way; doing so would unnecessarily curtail needed programs, cause great hardship and gratuitously harm the economy. Almost everyone, liberal and conservative, agrees that failing to raise the debt ceiling -- which would mean refusing to pay for spending that Congress has already approved -- is unthinkable; such a move would throw the world's financial system into chaos and potentially cause a global recession.
Everyone knows these things. Everyone knows it's time to stop the foolishness and get serious. Would somebody please tell the clowns?