Congress could pass a statute allowing states to declare bankruptcy, but a new enactment won't be forthcoming without a provision that allows them to vitiate their pension agreements with public-employee unions — unions that just happen to be one of the key building blocks of the Obama coalition. This is a recipe for deadlock.

It's also a recipe for disaster. The Great Depression went through waves as gains were periodically made, then wiped out as new stages of the crisis took hold. This will be our next wave and it could well crest next year. If our current leaders can't navigate their way through it, all bets are off. Keep your fingers crossed: we'll need to hang 10, as the poet once said.

Steven Stark can be reached at sds@starkwriting.com.

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