If Congress ever needed a wake-up call, it got one this week.

According to a Gallup Poll released Monday, more than three-quarters of Americans believe the way politics works in Washington, D.C., is actively harming the country.

Congress’ approval ratings have been losing altitude for some time — consistently falling below 20 percent. But this week’s poll confirms what we really think — Congress is the problem.

The fiscal cliff fiasco underscores the reality that Congress is incapable of solving our country’s tough issues. Congress can kick the can down the road, but not much else.

The absence of leadership is stunning. It takes a crisis like the self-imposed sequestration to produce a result that just about everyone agrees is “woefully inadequate” as former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson charged last week.

The magnitude of our country’s deficit requires serious, significant action. To arrest the deficit it will require shared sacrifice and spreading the pain of higher taxes and reduced government spending widely.

As David Wessel summarizes in his excellent book on the deficit, “Red Ink,” this is the crux of the issue: the deficit widens, the debt grows, the interest burden gets heavier, the voices grow even more shrill as the budget burden is passed to future generations, and nothing gets done.

The polarization of Congress is harming the country. The fiscal cliff deal is a good example of this fact. Our country’s debt and deficit problem is solvable. But the beltway politicians aren’t the folks who can get it done.