President Obama said, "My hope is that over the next several days, the congressional leadership on the supercommittee go ahead and bite the bullet and do what needs to be done." The deadline is looming, but the two sides sound as ideologically rigid as ever, the president seems as unable to inspire bipartisanship as on his first day in office, and the country is more split than it has been for at least a generation.
Opponents of the Keynesian anti-crisis measures pursued during the last three years are questioning the sincerity of the Democratic leadership's intentions to be more fiscally responsible, but they don't see much potential in the GOP presidential hopefuls for real change.
Radical "progressive" supporters of Obama are furious that he has abandoned (for now) his promises of redistribution. But since there is currently no better leftist alternative on the horizon, they are stuck supporting what seems to them to be a lukewarm and inconsistent proto-socialist.
Some independents are encouraged by the president's seeming ideological flexibility. Obama's declared pragmatism (announced willingness to examine and repair the flaws in his policies) makes him seem like a man who deserves another four years to pass a comprehensive economic plan that will fix the economy for us.
Moderate voters are hopeful that their leader's humility to seek a compromise will be matched by a similar change in tactics from the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. With less than a year to the next big election, it is to that majority in Congress and to the centrist electorate that I appeal with Friedrich Hayek's conclusion in his discussion of economic planning under a democratic government: "A complex whole in which all the parts must be most carefully adjusted to each other cannot be achieved through a compromise between conflicting views."
Trying to control, to plan, to steer the economic affairs of hundreds of millions of people by pursuing a consensus (or even a majority) among people led by a variety of socialist, interventionist, and free market ideas is as futile as planning a clandestine operation against al-Qaeda through a popular referendum.
There are two paths in front of us if we want the economy to be led by political decisions: legislative gridlock or economic dictatorship. Or we could all "bite the bullet" and stop pretending that it is possible to supplant competition by a different principle in order to focus on improving the institutional framework for the beneficial working of the market.