Congress’ lack of productivity

Congress sucks! Literally. Progress, governance and any faith Americans put in their federal government has been steadily sucked out and replaced with deep cynicism and distrust — and for good reason.

The use of the filibuster — essentially debating a bill to death — has been used more over the past two years than in all previous Congresses (for those who don’t know, the present Congress is the 113th Congress).

Even historically, noncontroversial bills like infrastructure funding have become bitter partisan fights.

The overall number of bills that have passed recently is unusually low, making the 112th Congress the least productive in American history.

This lack of productivity has also translated into a historically low approval rating.
The 112th Congress (2010-2012) had the lowest yearly average of all Congresses, finishing 2012 with a mere 15 percent, according to Gallup.

In January — at the start of the 113th Congress — congressional approval was even lower at 14 percent.

Most of the problem lies in the House of Representatives, where far-right, tea party Republicans have waged war on their very duties to govern since taking office.

Back in 2010, the GOP took control of the House thanks to a poor economy and anti-government fervor fueled by the then-new Tea Party, a faux “grassroots” movement fostered by the billionaire Koch Brothers (Koch Industries Inc.) and conservative media outlets like Fox News.

This brand of conservatism and the conservative movement at large see government as a problem to be fixed. Safety regulations? That’s repressive to the economy!

Returning federal income tax rates to the traditionally low Clinton tax rates for the wealthy, where taxpayers in the top bracket paid 39.6 percent? It’s a pinko-commie plot to destroy America, or something!

Closing tax loopholes that allow large corporations to dodge paying taxes? That will hurt the “job creators!”

This attitude has wreaked havoc on the country. In 2011, America nearly defaulted on its debt after House Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling until the last minute. This
close call shook the economy, which had been steadily improving, and resulted in a downgrade of the nation’s credit rating.

The reason for this refusal to budge: Planned Parenthood was receiving federal funding (none of which went toward abortions, by the way).

Congress was barely able to raise the debt ceiling and agree on new tax rates for the wealthy last month. Thanks to pressure from members of their own party, Republicans in the House agreed to raise the debt ceiling, but only for three months.

The Clinton tax rates were restored, but only for those making over $400,000 annually.
The debt ceiling has been raised several dozen times since the 1930s and without controversy. It’s Congress’ way of saying, “We will pay off the debt we have racked up. No problem. On to the next proposed bill.”

During the presidency of George W. Bush, Congress racked up trillions of dollars of debt via large tax cuts and two wars — all unpaid for.

When President Barack Obama took office and the far right had a meltdown (“He’s a Kenyan, Marxist, possibly gay, foreign-looking dictator!”) government spending itself became unfathomable and unacceptable.

It should be noted that the private sector is doing well, having added nearly five million new jobs since early 2009. However, the public sector (teachers, police, firefighters, post office workers, etc.) has been devastated.

More than 700,000 jobs have been drained from the public sector during the same period of time, a number that could mean the difference between a recovering economy and a healthy economy.

Even the U.S. Postal Service, set in place as a public good, has suffered from mismanagement and neglect.

Later this year, the USPS will end a 150-year-old service and no longer deliver first-class mail on Saturdays.

It will rely more on part-time workers rather than full-time employees and it will end overtime pay as a way to cut costs and survive thanks to an unresponsive Congress.
These cuts in public-sector jobs are mostly due to an irresponsible Congress that has demanded the cuts above all else. You raise the debt ceiling and keep the government running?

Cut government jobs and “spending” (public investments). The fact that more than $200 billion has been cut from the deficit since 2009 means nothing to the House. It isn’t enough for them.

The country cannot function under this extremism and refusal to govern. Americans of many different political persuasions are tired of the stubbornness and grow increasingly annoyed with members of Congress refusing to do their jobs.

How can we trust politicians whose view of reality is so warped? Why did we just re-elect many of the same extreme congresspersons back in November?

We’ve been steadily recovering from the Great Recession, and the world continues to change daily. We need a legislature that is serious about its responsibilities.

We need sensible congressmen and congresswomen who understand the dynamics of compromise and governance. We need November 2014 to be here already.

  • William S.

    Congress is working the way it was designed to work and that is to prevent a single ideology from running rampant. Imagine if there were no democrat opposition during the Bush years. America isn’t a dictatorship. Congress works on behalf of the people that elected them into office under a representative form of government. No matter how one defines the left or right in this country, by refusing to show respect to the other side only builds up the hatred and alienates fellow citizens who don’t happen agree with a single brand of politics. Now, I could berate a sitting President for adding over 6 trillion to the debt (more than all Presidents combined) or go after him for breaking his promise to cut the deficit in half during his first term. I could also lambast him over his objections to water boarding since it reeks of hypocrisy as he controls (and has used) a kill list on American citizens “suspected” of terror activity. I could also point out his lie to close Guantanamo within “one year” after taking office. There are a number of things I could go after our President on but what good would it do? It seems that these days the buck stops somewhere else, certainly not on the desk of the President. And why should it? It’s so much easier for the mainstream to blame Republicans, Fox News, and everyone else who opposes the liberal agenda and the majority of policies set by this President. That doesn’t make the opposers any less American, in fact it defines our nation quite well. The day we all sing the same chorus is the day half of us have been disposed of, and that isn’t very tolerant now is it?

  • I don’t like the increased use of drones, but the President has tried to shut down Guantanamo numerous times…and been thwarted by Congress. Jobs programs? Obstruction. Infrastructure spending? Obstruction.

    The “more than any other president combined” line, in reference to the national debt, is not true. If it were true, he’d have to add more than $10 trillion to the deficit over all eight years of his presidency (and, no, he’s not on track to get there). Hell, he came into office with a $1.3 deficit.

    Despite defense spending (minus Iraq as of December 2011), tax cuts and the first economic stimulus (which most economists agree helped keep the economy afloat), the over all deficit has been declining; it’s $200 billion less than it was when he took office. Those are the facts.

  • w. scoggin

    Recall the 850 billion dollar stimulus bill that passed in 2009. It covered 19,000 infrastructure projects – roads, bridges, mass transit. It was a dismal failure and didn’t produce the 1.6 million infrastructure jobs as promised, you might recall the President making light of the criticisms when he joked “shovel ready jobs weren’t that shovel ready.” Funny way to flush 850 billion.

    As for the debt, he has racked up more than all Presidents from Washington to H.W. Bush (my apologies). And has added more debt in four years than G.W. Bush did in eight years. Those are the facts. It is true that two wars were unfunded under Bush, but it’s only gotten worse under Obama as his 6 trillion in borrowing is “unfunded.” He has been running trillion dollar deficits and is on track to hit 18 to 20 trillion by 2016. 2013 is the first year the deficit fell below a trillion, CBO reported it at 845 billion. If Congress did as you wanted (more spending) that would easily exceed a trillion.

    You are aware that democrats thwarted the closing of Guantanamo don’t you? In 2009 the Senate voted 90 to 6 to prohibit funding the transfer of terrorists from Gitmo into the United States (amendment to the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2009 H.R. 2346) when democrats controlled Congress. The Guantanamo Review Task Force, directed by the President, determined 48 detainees were too dangerous to transfer, Those were his own appointed cabinet members telling him it was a bad idea.

    It’s unfortunate that any obstacle the President faces blame is put on the Republicans, the Tea Party, or Fox News. I would challenge anyone to consider that maybe our President is incapable of uniting both parties to get the job done. For all the Bush bashing that still goes on today four years after he left office, at least Bush worked with the democrats and got things done without whining everytime something didn’t go his way. And that’s a fact.