The Weeper of the House
On The Quintessential Do Nothing Congress!
As the economic crisis lingers on and threatens to get worse, the US Congress looks more and more like Jack the Bear: makin tracks bit getting nowhere. There is no better illustration of this than yesterday’s legislative deliberations in both houses. The Senate, which has a Democratic majority, was finally able to pass a tax bill without Republican opposition; but it was meaningless because the Constitution requires all revenue bills to originate in the House.
Alas, the House was tied up all day in a heated debate about a typographical error in a bill, although everybody conceded it was an error. If Harry Truman could win a second term running against a “do-nothing” Republican Congress in the 1940’s, running against the present Congress should be a walk in the park for President Obama.
After all, the Congress Truman ran against passed 90 bills, the present Congress has passed only 100 bills since the 2010 election! It is hard to recall a Congress as unpopular as 112th Congress. In fact, it is hard to find a dreaded public event that was more detested.
For instance, Democratic Senator Michael Bennett of Colorado has compiled a chart which shows that this Congress is the most unpopular in history! With a shameful 5% public approval rate congress is more unpopular than British Petroleum was during the worse days of the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It is more unpopular than Sugar Willie Clinton, after we learned that White House intern Monica Lewinsky was polishing his knob in the Oval Office. It is more unpopular than Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal; less popular than the banks during the recent crash; less popular than the IRS and President Chavez of Venezuela. This Congress is even more unpopular than Communism!
Although the average American may be mad at the Congress in general; it is the Republicans who are the stumbling block preventing the Democrats from going about the people’s business they were elected to address. And the crux of the problem is located in the Tea Party controlled House Of Representatives, who confuse compromise with capitulation. Yet our two party system and three fold division of governmental power is designed for comprise…it cannot work otherwise!
Thus the Republicans have well earned the title GOP: “Grand Obstructionists Party!” The fact that the American public does not understand the distinction between the roles the two parties are playing in our politics is an indictment of the major American media. Overrun by verbose airheads, the profit driven corporate owned broadcast media sounds like a tower of Babel to the average voter; it often confuses more than it enlightens.
The highly respected Congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Orenstein – who have just completed the most thorough study to date on how the Congress operates titled “It’s Even Worse Than it Looks” – have called the media “unindicted co-conspirators – in confusing the reasons for the present dysfunction in the US Congress.
Instead of clarifying who done what, the general lot of media commentators make it appear that both parties are equally to blame for the protracted fiasco that has paralyzed the 112th Congress. There is no ambiguity in the minds of Mann and Orenstein who the guilty party is. Like all good investigators they just follow the evidence.
Although Thomas Mann and Norm Orenstein are funded by think tanks with disparate ideological orientations – the liberal Brookings Institution and the conservative American Enterprise Institute – they both agree that the gridlock in Congress is due to the actions of intransigent right-wing Republican ideologues that are committed to insuring the failure of the Obama presidency. And they show how the GOP is willing to damage the public interests to do it…like the way they forced the US to a near default and caused the nation’s credit rating to go down for the first time in our history.
Norm Orenstein says this is the most dysfunctional Congress that he has witnessed in the 40 years that he has been studying them. And he views the fact that so many Americans are unsure which party to blame as the crux of our problem –an observation that echoes Tom Jefferson’s warning about the dangers of an ignorant electorate.
In such circumstances voters often decide to just throw the majority party out – and since the Democrats control the Senate and the White House they are in danger of getting the axe even though the Republicans are the guilty party. Hence as bad as things are now: They could get far worse!
GOP Congressman Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan
Social Darwinist Leaders of the Republican Obstructionists
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
July 30, 2012