Powerful special interests are killing health-care reform, which is par for the course in Congress, writes Joe Klein of Time. “We’ve gotten rusty at legislating,” says one Tennessee Democrat. That’s overly kind, Klein retorts. The only bills that pass these days are essentials like budgets and “cotton-candy giveaways.” The best of the health-care proposals, Ron Wyden’s, is doomed because no special interests are backing it.
Economist Mancur Olson once argued that as democracies mature, their special interests become entrenched, trumping the needs of society as a whole. Sound familiar? Throw in the advent of the 20-second ad—which simultaneously forced lawmakers to take money from special interests and guard their votes against attack spots—and you have a poisonous recipe for conservative governance. “Doing nothing," Klein laments, "is the easiest thing.”