Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein claimed that the Republicans are worse than the Democrats regarding gridlock and blocked legislation in Congress [“Admit it. The Republicans are worse,” Outlook, April 29]. What they overlooked is the elephant in the room; his name is debt.

The federal debt is the No. 1 problem facing this nation. What we do about it will determine whether we remain a diplomatic power in the world, a dominant military power, a nation with a workable social safety net and a place where our children can reasonably expect to have a better standard of living. But the debt problem cannot be addressed by additional taxation nor by tinkering with entitlements. Fundamental reforms are required.

Yet the Democrats, when given their chance, chose to enact an “affordable” health-care program that is anything but affordable (and likely to be ruled unconstitutional). They also ignored their own National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, scuttled the “grand bargain” by moving the goalposts at the last minute and now are putting all their firepower into a “millionaire’s tax” that looks good on bumper stickers but will do nothing to solve the debt problem.

So it is the Democrats who have demonstrated that they are not capable of addressing the overarching problem of our day. At least the Republicans understand the issue.

Tom Hafer, Arlington

In 1986, the year Grover Norquist rolled out his Taxpayer Protection Pledge, the federal government spent $990 billion.

In 1994, the year Newt Gingrich’s Republican Revolution made government leaner and meaner, Washington spent $1.46 trillion.

In 2011, after 17 years of strangulation at the hands of small-government extremists, a gaunt and gasping Uncle Sam blew through $3.6 trillion, more than a third of it borrowed. This austerity is killing us.

Michael Smith, Cynthiana, Ky.

Kudos to the April 29 Outlook section for its enlightening discussion of our hyperpartisan political divide. The main piece, by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, provided a sober and scholarly analysis of the devolution of the GOP into a party in thrall to its most extreme elements. As if to validate Mr. Mann and Mr. Ornstein’s indictment of the media for seeking faux balance, there was Jonah Goldberg’s more shrill and condescending look at “The cliches liberals use to duck debates,” which, deservedly, received second billing.

Most interesting to me, however, was Frank I. Luntz’s piece, which debunked “5 myths about conservative voters.” As a centrist Democrat and proud American longing for compromise, I found the conservative majorities described by Mr. Luntz to be common-sense people with whom I can often agree. I wondered, “If this is the majority of conservative voters, where are their representatives?” The obvious answer, provided by Mr. Mann and Mr. Ornstein, is that they have been run off by extremists.

Only when mainstream conservatives reassert themselves can the United States hope to be again “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

Mark von Keszycki, Great Falls

Kudos to pollster Frank I. Luntz for debunking the myth that there is a continuity between what conservatives say they want and what they actually want. Until I read the results of Mr. Luntz’s polling, I thought the two were the same.

Barry Jenkins, Arlington