That the $1.1-trillion congressional budget deal to keep the government open is cause for any elation is a sign of just how deeply dysfunctional the government has been in recent years.
Congress negotiated the complex spending bill in secret without the full debate it warranted, and finally passed it months late for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Not surprisingly, the bill -- dubbed "cromnibus," for continuing-resolution omnibus bill -- is a bonanza for special interests.
Wall Street got a provision rolling back a post-crash section of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Banks with federally insured deposits will once again be allowed to gamble on risky derivatives such as the mortgage-default swaps that helped tank the economy in 2008. That sets up a regrettable return to the sort of "heads banks win, tails taxpayers lose" situation that was one reason the bank bailouts caused so many people to see red. And by raising the amount an individual can give to a national political party for its nominating convention from $97,200 to $777,600 a year, Congress simultaneously expanded one convenient avenue for big-money players to show their appreciation.
But despite the ugly process and some unseemly results, the budget deal does mark a smidgen of progress. At least Congress didn't shut down the government, as it did for 16 days in 2013. And by funding almost all government operations through Sept. 30, 2015, it headed off any quick sequels of shutdown brinkmanship. Opposition to the deal came both from the right, led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and the left, led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). So, for the moment, at least, compromise by the middle has reappeared on Capitol Hill.
That's something to feel good about -- but not that much.