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FROM THE ANTHOLOGY: Masters of International Relations

Can America Be Fixed?

The New Crisis of Democracy

We built that: President Barack Obama visiting the Hoover Dam, October 2, 2012. Kevin Lamarque / Courtesy Reuters

In November, the American electorate, deeply unhappy with Washington and its political gridlock, voted to maintain precisely the same distribution of power -- returning President Barack Obama for a second term and restoring a Democratic Senate and a Republican House of Representatives. With at least the electoral uncertainty out of the way, attention quickly turned to how the country's lawmakers would address the immediate crisis known as the fiscal cliff -- the impending end-of-year tax increases and government spending cuts mandated by earlier legislation.

As the United States continues its slow but steady recovery from the depths of the financial crisis, nobody actually wants a massive austerity package to shock the economy back into recession, and so the odds have always been high that the game of budgetary chicken will stop short of disaster. Looming past the cliff, however, is a deep chasm that poses a much greater challenge --

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