I wonder what President Obama was contemplating as he joined the four preceding Presidents to formally open George W. Bush’s Presidential Library in late April. Perhaps he was disquieted about the legislative travails suffered during negotiations with Congressional Republicans on the budget deficit and gun control, or maybe he was comforted by the bipartisan negotiations to move forward on immigration reform, or even the sudden resurgence of security as an issue in the wake of the tragedies in Boston.
Whilst the reputation for the intern experience is one of fetching coffees for superiors and photocopying a litany of documents, the experience I was fortunate to have at the Grattan Institute over Summer 2012/13 will be one to remain with me for years to come. Founded in 2008 with financial endowments from the Federal and State governments, BHP Billiton and in kind support from the University of Melbourne, the Grattan Institute has sought to carve out a role as one of Australia’s most significant think tanks, specifically focused on public policy. Since founding, it has released a variety of influential reports on key policy issues with its most notable work released last year concerning the significant reforms that could unleash a new wave of economic growth in Australia.
Throughout the hoopla of the Leadership Spill that wasn’t I was struck by how parlous politics in Australia had become. Then I wandered over to one of my regularly-read blogs, the ever-engaging Ezra Klein on The Washington Post, who highlighted the endemic nature of intransigence in the budget-making process in the US. His broad contention, reinforced by the likes of Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine, is that no matter what President Obama offers in terms of compromise on the budget, it will be met by the same obstinate response from Congressional Republicans to demand more concessions on spending in exchange for any further increases in tax revenue.