One of the causes of the fall of Rome was the Senate. Since various dynamic personalities, Causar, Pompey, Sulla, Augustus, etc. had taken the tiller of Rome for a few centuries, the Roman Government lost the ability to take the tiller back. Instead of trying to take back the power of the state and institute new policies, they became interested in advancing their petty positions. Even when incompetent Emperors reigned, and in the various margins between dictators, the Senate was incapable of governing the nation.
I wonder if this is the situation we face in modern America. The members of Congress are incompetent to legislate: they don't write the bills, and their "debates" are simply for show. They fly back to their homes every weekend, destroying any sense of community or congeniality amongst Congressmen.
It's telling that a Republican Congress would criticize the President for not showing leadership on the budget battle. It's partially a political maneuver, but surely the Constitution-loving Republican Party know that budget bills must begin in the very House they control.
In Rome, the impetus for State actions fell to the Emperor. Today, it falls to corporations, particularly those that influence the political sphere through media or political donations. The Emperor, unless he was completely insane (sometimes true) had to keep the state functioning. Corporations have no such interest. There is no conflict of interest for a Coal company to undermine the foundations of our nation, so long as those running the company make money.