Rugrats in Washington

by Jillian Kay Melchior

We may have voted the scoundrels into office, but we don’t have high expectations of them.

That’s the finding of a new CNN/ORC International survey, which reported that two-thirds of Americans predict our elected officials in Washington will behave like “spoiled children” in negotiations about the fiscal cliff.

There’s a particular irony to this wording — the respondents had to choose between describing their officials as “spoiled children” or “responsible adults.”

To state the obvious, “spoiled children” have ruined attitudes because they have been overindulged. They always get what they want — candy, toys, etc. — because the parents cannot bear to deny them. These spoiled children’s parents put their short-term comfort above their long-term good.

Unfortunately, the term “spoiled child” better describes large swathes of the electorate. Earlier this month, many voters cast their ballot in favor of an ever-increasing quantity of government goodies. Those handouts are destroying the health of our national finances, but elected officials are finding it more convenient to indulge voter impulses than to enforce moderation.

Poll respondents were right to feel uneasy about elected officials’ competence in addressing a fiscal crisis, but they were wrong in their categorization. The public has behaved like a spoiled child; the leadership has acted like an irresponsible adult.

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