Peter Suderman on Why American Politics Doesn't Do Big Things

In January 2011, when President Obama closed out
his State of the Union address with a double invocation of the
phrase, “we do big things,” it seemed more than plausible. It
seemed obviously true. During the previous two years, Congress had
passed, and Obama had signed, the biggest fiscal stimulus in
history, a far-reaching overhaul of financial sector regulation
that included the creation of a new federal agency, and a health
care law intended to reform the insurance market and bring the
nation closer than ever to universal coverage. Obama’s declaration
wasn’t so much a promise as a boast of progress already made; under
his watch, the federal government wasn’t merely going to do big
things—it had already done them. But nearly three years later,
writes Reason Senior Editor Peter Suderman, the federal
government’s capacity for expansive action looks far more in

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from Hit & Run

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