Almost a month ago Ezra Klein posted this graph and its been bothering me ever since:
The basic lesson to take away from this is that Democrats prefer politicians who compromise to get things done and Republicans prefer politicians who stick to their principles no matter what.
It seems easy, looking at this graph, to figure out how the debt ceiling debate would play out. Democrats would offer a compromise and the Republicans would reject it. Democrats would offer a compromise that was slightly more to the right and the Republicans would reject it. This would happen a bunch more times. Eventually something would happen that would change the incentives. For (most) Republicans this was the actual debt ceiling. Compromising was a better option then the US defaulting. For Democrats this seemed to be cut, cap and balance. A compromise they felt their base wouldn't support.
It also seems pretty clear from this graph how the appropriations deal is going to play out. Except, i'm unsure whether or not a government shutdown looks worse to Republicans then compromise.
Recently the phrase "congress is broken" has been thrown around a lot. It looks more like Congress is responding appropriately to the stated desires of their electorate. It also doesn't help that the government's structure allows a minority to prevent legislation by refusing to compromise.