Let me address the political problem, because I think it's the really big elephant in the room. The Democrats can't lead. Period. The president sends a proposal to the Republicans and then offers the "pre-compromised" version before negotiations get out of the gate. He has yet to figure out that he is hated -- as in really hated -- because of what he symbolizes: the end of the WASP power structure as we know it. And Congressional Democrats have no backbone. Case in point: perennial pain in the ass Joe Lieberman should have been given an office by the janitor (with an apology to the janitor) along with every meaningless committee assignment possible. Instead, he's a media darling.
Republicans now have the luxury of living in a fact-free world thanks to Fox news and talk radio. Ever wonder why a mere 6% of scientists consider themselves Republicans? Because Republicans are now completely fact-free in a majority of their statements and policy proposals. Here is but one example: sometime over the last year, Paul Ryan proposed a new budget plan with economic analysis provided by the Heritage Foundation. The plan started to unravel after Paul Krugman noticed the plan projected unemployment at 2.3% at the end of the decade. After that, a group of people (of which I was one) shredded the plan -- as in demonstrated that it was put together by a third-grader with a crayon. It got so bad that Heritage eventually took it down only to erase the more egregious assumptions. That's just one example of how the fact free the Republican party has become.
Kinda why we're so screwed, eh!