Ben Stein: Our government has gone off the rails

The scene of an accident in Chicago involving a derailed Rock Island Suburban Railway train, July 21, 1903.
Chicago Daily News/Library of Congress

(CBS News) In reviewing the news of this past week, one day in particular stands out for our contributor Ben Stein:

March 1, 2013. A date which will live in infamy.

The people and nation of the United States were slowly and deliberately attacked by the partisanship, ideological rigidity and lack of courage of the top levels of the government of this nation.

Government run for the people with care, devotion and love of country went off the rails.

Over the question of how much to cut spending and how much to raise taxes, both totally legitimate subjects for debate, we are going off the map of the known world and into a "Twilight Zone" of sequester never-never land.

We are playing hazardous games with defense, with the economic recovery, with the guiding of airplanes into airports, with the education of our children.

In the midst of a highly tentative and slow recovery from a terrible recession, we are threatening to throw tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands into the unemployment lines.

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I get the points on both sides: The Democrats want the rich to pay more tax, and I completely agree. The rich should pay more and the middle class should have some skin in the game, too.

The Republicans say we are drowning in debt and have to cut spending on entitlements somewhere. And both points of view are ideologically pure, but totally unrealistic approaches to the real world.

The real world is not about absolutes. This is America, not the Third Reich. We govern by compromise.

The goal here is not perfect ideological nirvana. It is the dirty, gritty business of compromise. Anything less at this point is a betrayal of those who have given their all for this country.

This nonsense about the budget has gone on way too long. It is exhausting and maddening. We have a government acting like rival grade school gangs on a playground.

As the great Mick Jagger so aptly said, "The game to play is compromise solution."

Or take someone much greater. Abraham Lincoln said long ago that America was "the last best hope of Earth." Let's get way, way back from the brink and show that Lincoln was right again. Mick, too.

Senators, Congressmen and women, Mister President, get back to Washington D.C., and get to work. Compromise. Work like you love America.

And get it done.