Whew. That was close, wasn't it? An ugly two week government shutdown was bad for everyone but Democratic politicians, but at least, when the clock was ticking toward midnight John Boehner was true to his word and allowed the House to pass a CR and Debt Limit bill on the strength of Democratic votes. Everyone on every side - with the exception of the known lunatics - agreed that the US could not be allowed to default, especially not when it would be an unnecessary, intentional act. In other words, the tea party broke the number one rule of hostage taking - they took a hostage that John Boehner was unwilling to shoot.
Of course, the CR and Debt Limit bill they passed were very short term fixes, with the CR expiring in January and the Debt Limit hitting again in February. There are some differeences this time, however. First, it seems vanishingly unlikely that the Republican leadership will allow the threat of a US Sovereign default to be used again anytime soon as political leverage. The problem with using nuclear weapons in hand-to-hand combat is nobody wins. But the two events are not so close in time now. The CR must be extended by January 15th or the government shuts down again, but the Treasury will make use of their "extraordinary measures" to push back the deadline for raising the debt ceiling into the summer, June or even July.
So the tea party will take the budget hostage, and the Republican leadership has already proven that's a hostage they're willing to shoot. There isn't going to be a budget agreement - the Democrats won't accept entitlement cuts without increased revenue and spending on things like infrastructure, and the Republicans are NOT going to bend on revenue increases. The only way that gets resolved is if the 2014 mid-term election is a referendum on divided government, and the Democrats re-take the House of Representatives. Until one side or another has the power to actually enact their agenda, this is what American governance looks like.
Discretionary spending at Sequester levels and no important legislation passed for at least another year. Repeated artificial crises and short term fixes, all wrapped in the spittle-flecked hatred and political posturing of an American far-right movement that has lost its mind. It's telling that they don't even try to describe what they see as the problems with the current government, they just deny that it has any legitimacy. They say 'Obamacare' is a "train wreck", but they don't explain how that is. They say government spending is "out of control", when it's at the lowest levels in decades. They say Obama is taking away their 'liberties', but they don't say which liberties, or how they are losing them. And in the one case where the Administration IS actually taking away their liberties - the police state levels of domestic surveillance without any oversight - they actually seem to approve.
Meanwhile, the economy sputters along, one real shock away from another recession, as the nation becomes a global laughingstock. Other countries wonder how it is that the most powerful nation on earth can't find a way to solve even its most pressing problems. They wonder what is so good about a democratic system of governance if it leads to helplessness and chaos. Emerging global and regional powers are learning lessons from this, but they are not the lessons we'd want them to learn. They may fear the United States for it's raw military power, but any respect they might have had for our highly-touted values is fading rapidly, and the remaining pool of goodwill is drying up before our eyes.