SALT LAKE CITY — The political theater captured a lot of attention this week with the debt ceiling debate. But the debate has highlighted an even bigger issue: dysfunction in Washington, and a willingness to gamble with the nation's economy.
The U.S. government is currently in a state of congressional gridlock. Because of the uncertainty this gridlock creates, experts blame this dysfunction more than any other factor for the drawn-out, sluggish economic recovery after the great recession because of the uncertainty it creates.
The Sen. Ted Cruz filibuster is a good example of that dysfunction for many, including former Utah Sen. Robert Bennett. He calls the marathon a "Cruz fund-raising exercise."
"He got a lot of publicity, but didn't make any difference whatsoever in the senate," Bennett said.
Sitting Utah Sen. Mike Lee defends the filibuster.
His communications office tweeted that they received more than 2,600 phone calls of support for Lee's part in the defund effort, overshadowing the 167 against.
A Utah policy poll of 100 political insiders shows that — even among Republicans — 22 percent of people polled think Lee's quest to defund the Affordable Care Act hurts him, and 31 percent of Republicans polled say it makes Lee look like an extremist.
Whatever the political impact on Lee and Cruz, the overall effect is further erosion of confidence in Congress.
"Of course, we aren't solving problems that need to be solved, like immigration, we're leaving that undone. But number two, the cynicism of our citizens has reached epic proportions," said Kirk Jowers, executive director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics
The cynicism of our citizens has reached epic proportions.
–Kirk Jowers, Hinckley Institute
"Unfortunately, this session of Congress has not been normal. And I couldn't guarantee that if the filibuster weren't going on, other good things would be," Bennett said.
In the meantime, the threat of a government shutdown has Utah Gov. Gary Herbert watching and waiting. His deputy chief of staff, Ally Isom, says a lot of programs rely on federal funding.
The effect on states like Utah is significant. Aside from obvious things like national park closures, many programs rely directly on federal funding.
"A few days, a week. But anything more than that, the cash flow issue becomes a real challenge for the state of Utah," Isom said.