Reform is an option.

I’ve been here before with Robert Samuelson, but it’s important to hammer at this point whenever it appears:

On domestic policy, Democrats have few big opportunities. This creates a dilemma. They can either concentrate on symbolic acts (the minimum wage, the drug benefit) that sharpen their differences with Republicans. Or they can find less controversial matters, where cooperation seems possible, to advertise their fitness to govern and their credentials as centrists. It will be difficult to do both. There’s only one solace — the Republicans face the same dilemma.

I agree that implementing changes won’t be as easy as Democrats might hope. That’s not the issue. When we start resorting to “less controversial,” we come up with non-solutions to real problems. In the context of current politics, of course, because controversy and arguing can and should lead to better solutions. But Congress is dysfunctional and poorly suited to reform.

I’m splitting principle-based hairs on what Democrats should focus on. That brings me to Mr. Samuelson’s (repeat) mistake. Notice in his conclusion that he offers only two choices, symbolic acts or centrist compromises. There is no discussion that maybe Congress shouldn’t be spending the way it spends on what it spends. Why? I’m willing to consider that I’m wrong, but there are alternative viewpoints separate from the Democrat versus Republican debate.

Cooperation, and all that.