ProPublica

Journalism in the Public Interest

Cancel

Our Reading Guide on Congressional Dysfunction

Once again, Congress seems to be gridlocked. Why is that?

.

(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Congress’ approval rating is abysmal, and the failure of the congressional “super committee” to find a compromise on reducing the national debt has set off a new round of recriminations.

One senator on the super committee, Democrat Max Baucus of Montana, told The Washington Post, “We’re at a time in American history where everybody's afraid — afraid of losing their job — to move toward the center. A deadline is insufficient. You’ve got to have people who are willing to move.”

Decrying partisanship is almost as old as the republic itself. But longtime observers say Congress has actually taken a turn for the worse — with more gridlock, more grandstanding, less compromise to get things done.

Old rules are being used in newly aggressive, partisan ways, and routine Congressional activities have become politicized — most notably, the vote to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. Once a nonissue, it brought the nation to the brink of default.

As former Republican Congressman Mickey Edwards points out, “Leaders of both chambers have embraced the strategy of precluding minority amendments, out of fear that even members of the majority party might vote for them.” This means, Edwards argues, that “to be in the minority is essentially to be made a nonfactor in the legislative process.”

The use of filibusters to block votes in the Senate used to be a last-ditch tactic, but in 2010, Republicans were filibustering even routine Democratic initiatives, effectively paralyzing the Senate. Democrats had previously ramped up the use of filibusters to oppose George W. Bush’s agenda, but Republicans “appeared to be taking the filibuster to a new level,” McClatchy Newspapers reported, even filibustering “15 nominees to mid-level jobs that formerly got routine approval.” Here is a helpful bar graph from McClatchy showing the trend. (Efforts to overhaul the filibuster earlier this year failed.)

The confirmation process of many of President Obama’s nominees has also lagged, creating gaps in the Treasury and Federal Reserve, leaving regulatory agencies without leaders. It has also resulted in prolonged judicial vacancies, which has sparked criticism from Chief Justice John G. Roberts, who said the delays are impairing the judicial system.

How exactly did it get so bad? Here’s our reading guide to a few smart, in-depth explanations of how Congress became so dysfunctional.

There’s a bigger partisan divide between voters — and members of Congress

Norman Ornstein’s Foreign Policy article — “Worst. Congress. Ever.” — provides a helpful overview of what’s the matter, from a man who’s been a Congressional expert for decades. (Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann co-wrote a 2006 book, "The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track.")  

Ornstein explains that the nation's partisan makeup has changed dramatically since the late 1960s, when the country was less divided between red and blue states. Conservative Democrats from the South and liberal Republicans from the North regularly crossed party lines on different policy issues.

Since then, both parties have consolidated geographically — and become more homogenous and more partisan.  

Looking at Congressional voting records in 2010, the National Journal’s Ron Brownstein found that the most left-leaning Republican senator still voted more to the right than the most conservative Democrat. The House, too, had an unprecedented level of polarization, with most politicians voting in lockstep with their parties.

This makes life easier for party leaders, Republican Trent Lott, the former Senate majority leader from Mississippi, said, but “in terms of getting things done for the country, that’s not the case.” (Brownstein is the author of a helpful book on polarization, "The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship Has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America.")

And the partisan divide isn’t just in Congress. As Bill Bishop documented in his book "The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart," voters are likelier to live in politically homogenous counties. “In 1976, only about a quarter of America's voters lived in a county a presidential candidate won by a landslide margin. By 2004, it was nearly half,” Bishop found.

Members of Congress are raising money instead of building working relationships in D.C.

In the Boston Review’s "Fixing Congress" issue, Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper of Tennessee (recently named the House’s “last moderate” by New York Times columnist Joe Nocera) wrote a detailed chronology of how fundraising has changed Congress

In the 1980s, Cooper argues, most members of Congress lived in Washington with their families and socialized with each other across party lines. Hotly contested campaigns cost only a few hundred thousand dollars, and political parties did not expect that politicians would make donations to their colleagues.

Cooper blames former House Majority Leader and current presidential candidate Newt Gingrich for changing this restrained culture.

“Gingrich ordered freshman Republicans not to move their families to Washington, D.C., because he thought they needed to campaign full-time at home,” Cooper wrote. “Soon everyone belonged to the Tuesday–Thursday Club. Members became strangers, the easier for them to fight.”

Cooper isn’t the only one to emphasize Gingrich’s role. Edwards, the former Congressman, told the Associated Press that Gingrich “greatly increased the party-versus-party polarization.” According to Edwards, Gingrich pushed his fellow Republicans to focus less on actually making laws and more on being “a champion of the Republican cause, constantly at war, defeating Democrats."

Cooper notes that campaigns now cost millions of dollars, and that members of Congress are expected to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in party dues, as well as to make large donations to other candidates in their party.

George Packer’s New Yorker story on Senate dysfunction — perhaps the most vivid and comprehensive take on this issue — also elaborates on the impact that fundraising pressure has on senators.

 “Of any free time you have, I would say 50 percent, maybe even more,” is spent on fundraising, one senator told Packer. “It sucks up time that a senator ought to be spending getting to know other senators, working on issues,” another said.

Congress’ culture is also more combative because it’s more competitive

In his Boston Review article, “Ending the Permanent Campaign,” Ornstein notes that this hyper-focus on fundraising and campaigning is related to the new competitiveness of Congress. Democrats had a “stranglehold” on the House of Representatives for four decades. After Republicans seized control of the House in 1994, each election “now provides a plausible scenario for a power shift.” Campaigning has grown in importance because the stakes are higher.

Writing in response to Cooper in the Boston Review, Dana Houle, the former chief of staff to former Democratic Congressman Paul Hodes, argued that comparing Congress today with Congress in the 1980s, as Cooper does, isn’t quite fair. It was because a single party reliably dominated the House that Congress members could “spend more time in Washington, D.C., focus on legislating, and build relationships with fellow members. Serving in Congress is easier and probably more rewarding when one does not face a strong possibility of defeat in every election.”

24/7 media scrutiny of Congressional drama has intensified while local news coverage has declined

Packer’s New Yorker article on the Senate also highlighted how good, old C-SPAN may have made things worse. “After C-SPAN went on the air, in 1979, the cozy atmosphere that encouraged both deliberation and back-room deals began to yield to transparency and, with it, posturing,” Packer wrote.

(One 2003 study, looking at the years 1959-98, found that the presence of television cameras on the legislative floor correlated with an increase in Senate filibusters.)

Financial shakeups in the media business, including the decline and even bankruptcy of regional newspapers, also have changed political coverage. In 2010, while he was still in office, former Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut told Packer, “I used to have 11 Connecticut newspaper reporters who covered me on a daily basis. I don’t have one today, and haven’t had one in a number of years. Instead, D.C. publications only see me through the prism of conflict.”

Dysfunction’s potential silver lining

Of course, a stalled Congress might not be such a bad thing, depending on your perspective. William J. Bennett argues that gridlock is a side effect of an ideological divide on policy issues. “We are in the midst of a serious philosophical battle over the future of this country — a battle between a small, limited government system and a big government entitlement state,” Bennett wrote as part of a CNN series called “Why is our government so broken?" He concluded: “Don't mistake broken government for the growing pains of a democratic republic.”

Its rather telling that in January of 2009, after the democrat party took control of the house senate and presidency, the first move of speaker Pelosi was to re-write House rules to exclude the minority party from offering up amendments to legislation, rules originally passed by Newt Gingrich in the aftermath of the 1994 elections. 

It should also be noted that one of Speaker Boehner’s first acts was to undo Pelosi’s move.

Richard Schmidt

Nov. 23, 2011, 12:42 p.m.

Congress is dysfunctional because we are largely a stupid, greedy population of me-firsters. We no longer care about anyone but ourselves, so we have become a dysfunctional nation. The greedy, crooked bankers are merely emblematic of who we are as a people. We could, of course, change who we are, but that seems doubtful, given our recent history of teabaggers. If people can be conned so completely and so easily by our extremely rich “lords of the manor” into acting against their own interests, then I see little hope for the 2012 elections. Simply looking at the fools who now claim to represent the republican party, Perry, Bachman, Gingrich, et al, and I cannot figure out why anyone would reach positive conclusions about our future.

Maybe it is because they do not listen to their constituents and the American people but give their undivided attentions to corporations and lobbyists. It’s like the same old story a big gap between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have nots. The middle class as well as the lower income are obviously suffering.

Stephanie Palmer

Nov. 23, 2011, 12:46 p.m.

Congress is disfunctional because it is so easily bought. Until we get a system where the money is gone, it will remain the same. The protesters aren’t saying there’s anything wrong with capitalism. They’re saying that everything is wrong with capitalism once the rich can buy their favors. Of course, the Congress is complicit in this because if they didn’t take the money, the fraud wouldn’t be able to happen. And this comment is for Congress members on both sides. It’s been going on for years.  And yeah, it’s disgusting. But soon there wont be anymore unclaimed money and they’ll go after each other…........just wait.

THEY ALL SHOULD BE IMPEACHED FOR NOT WORKING ,AFTER ALL THE US CITIZENS ARE PAYING THEIR SALARIES AND FOR ALL THE PERKS,THEY ARE ENJOYING.
THE PEOPLE SHOULD GATHER AND PROTEST JUST LIKE WALL STREET PROTESTORS ..THEY ALL SHOULD HAVE ONLY ONE TERM IN OFFICE LIMIT..
THE 21st Century demands fast ACTIONS.. BOOT ALL OF THEM OUT IN THE NEXT ELECTIONS .And BANNED the Special interest LOBBYING

Important point on minority party amendments, Mike H. As Mickey Edwards notes in the article we linked to above:

“Speaker John Boehner deserves credit for promising greater opportunities for the minority party to have its amendments considered. Under his speakership, the Republican-dominated House has actually accepted some Democratic amendments. The House now has fewer closed rules and more “modified open” rules (which permit at least some challenges to the leadership’s agenda). But whether the procedure will be open or closed on any particular matter remains at the discretion of the majority leadership, and in cases where the political commitment is particularly strong (for example, on the Republican challenge to health-care legislation passed during Democratic control), the promises of openness have been quickly abandoned.”

The link to Edwards’ article: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/07/how-to-turn-republicans-and-democrats-into-americans/8521/?single_page=true

Robert A Penick

Nov. 23, 2011, 1:16 p.m.

The author failed to mention that our nation is experiencing an economic crisis, which, in the eyes of the ideologues of both sides, is not to be wasted.  Now is the time for the home party to crush the opposite party.  It is deemed justifiable to risk the welfare of the nation to succeed in this.
It doesn’t help that politicians had no idea how to head off the crisis in the frist place, much less how to deal with the monster it would become.

“We’re at a time in American history where everybody’s afraid — afraid of losing their job — to move toward the center. A deadline is insufficient. You’ve got to have people who are willing to move.” Baucus

And, that’s the problem. These folks are NOT interested in doing what’s right for the country only doing what it takes to get reelected. So, rather than being committed to the welfare of the common good, they are only committed to their own self-serving benefit.

What an insulting disgrace!

Isn’t the end-game of Capitalism to collect all of the money in one place? For one entity to control all cash flow? How can that be a successful model for anything? Apparently, ethics and a working desire to improve civilization no longer exist.

This is a fascinating time, but quite a dangerous one as well.

Walter D. Shutter, Jr

Nov. 23, 2011, 1:31 p.m.

Bennett may be right.  There may be is a great philosophical divide in the country, big government v. small government. If so, this may be responsible for the extreme partisanship and gridlock we now are seeing. 

On the other hand, Bennett may be wrong, and the governmental dysfunction may simply be the result of cynical politicians playing to the rubes on both sides. 

No matter.  If I can’t have small government, I’ll take gridlock and like it.

The political Balkanization of this country runs the very real risk of becoming the geographical separation of eastern Europe in practice, if not in fact. That reality, and ever-escalating feudal political battles, risks making our civil war look like a walk in the park.

Historically, the single unifying event for a nation has been either military confrontation from a foreign source, or strong dictatorial leadership. An exemplar of latter was Vlad the Impaler, or more recently, Marshal Tito,

Is that what it will come to for the sake of national defragmentation?

Of the several things that would help alleviate the dysfunction problem the imposition of term limits would probably have thew greatest effect. Next would be prohibiting members from accepting “money or gifts” from anyone who is not a living breathing constituent. Only residents of the state for Senators or in the case of Representatives only residents of the district. This should make the Congress answerable to those who sent them them there, not the deep pockets folk from wherever! Also, make any vote for a bill that does pass constitutional muster, grounds for recall of the person who cast it or make it a requirement that each bill submitted must be agreed to be constitutional,if passed by majority vote by the same majority as a constitutional amendment. Rules of the house and senate shall not be written in such a way as to give advantage to one side or the other no matter which side is in the majority.

Congress is dysfunctional because it is driven by campaign bribes. These b*stards are corrupt and should be put in jail. the R’s don’t realize it yet or they’d be walking on Wall Street to, but give them time.

I’d feel a lot better if we got the campaign finance system fixed—with publicly funded campaigns—and then turn congress loose on fixing our system. I want them working for US, not them, and for $5 per taxpayer per year it would be a bargain.

Jack Lohman
http://MoneyedPoliticians.net

What bothers me is the 8% approval rating of congress means nothing to congress. It means nothing to the media. It means nothing to political leaders or business leaders. Everyone is focussed on the next election right after the last one. It’s a winner take all game at any cost similar to the behavior we are experiencing in banks and Wall Street. And hardly anyone anymore is held responsible for breaking laws or abusing fiduciary obligations.

Is anyone experiencing really smart people being taken in by the poltical divide? I am so disapointed at the numbers of intelligent people on both sides of the dumb divide brainwashed by dilusions of leadership.

The tremendous abundance that we have experienced in the aftermath of stealing the land from the native people has made us tolerant of crime and corruption.  Hence we have a political system that Bill Maher described as “legalized bribery.”  Politicians have become commodities and the best prices are demanded by politicians that present evidence to prove that once bought they stay bought.  The greatest security for the owner of a politician is to invest in very flawed people who can be easily controlled by whatever means.  Ergo, legalized bribery and monetary entitlements (i.e., legislators that become millionaires by trading on their positions) ensure that our legislatures is totally dysfunctional.

We could afford the rats in the corn cribs during abundant harvests, but not now.

Happy Genocide Day.

herb

Hal E. Burton

Nov. 23, 2011, 2:54 p.m.

Two words: Citizens United. 

This decision now completely enslaves members of congress to their respective financial backers irrespective of the issue at hand.  If the Republicans succeed in eliminating public employee unions, then there will only be one group with sufficient resources to control our government (we know who they are).  Democracy will exist (if it doesn’t already) only in name.

Our overall problem is political corruption; the same thing that caused the riots in the middle east. I support the OWS and Tea Partiers, and hopefully they’ll create political change. Redistricting is a recent example; it doesn’t benefit just one party, it locks in both parties against the voters. It is stacking the deck for the duopoly against third-parties.

Hopefully our electorate will have the balls to throw them ALL out in 2012.

Hal, don’t put all your eggs into one basket. Citizens United is good, but be careful that it doesn’t leave the loophole that corporations can give bonuses to CEOs who then bribe politicians.

Mike H, The Democrats took control of the Congress in 2007 not 2009. That gaff casts doubt on the rest of your comments.

Limiting legislator term can be done by not re-electing.I hope none are re-elected. They have demonstrated clearly that they don’t deserve re-election anytime in the future. Congress & senate,,, go home & nevercome back… GO HOME & NEVER COME BACK….
  You & you alone have put America in a terrible mess & refuse to do anything. You only make it worse.
    Glenn S.

Legislators term can be limited by not re-electing them. You have been paid big money for doing nothing. Go home & never come back
————-GO HOME & NEVER COME BACK, EVER———-
Congress & senate,,,,, You & you alone have put America in the terrible mess we are in. You refuse to do anything about it. That is ample justification for being fired.\
_______GO HOME & NEVER COME BACK,,,EVER
  Glenn Smith

Thank you, Mr, Schmidt, by writing your comment.  The naive or stupid think that the Republicans will represent them, when these people only represent the greedy rich who want to not only keep all of their wealth but to take away what little the blue collar and middle classes have.  The clowns who are running for the Republican nomination seemed to have slept through all their history and civics classes while in school and are racist to boot, since they openly hate anyone who doesn’t look like them.

I truly feel sorry for the people who think that the Republican party is truly American; you are all intellectually disabled.

GOP, Inc and they say pizza is a vegetable. 2 Tbs of tomato sauce so they say.  A Washington Post reporter today wrote a similar post I wrote last night (yahoo groups), that if the GOP runners want jobs, there are available positions in Libya, Sudan, Egypt, etc. Her’s were a bit more local, but same idea. Interesting validation.

Well, when the bank and MasterCard come a’knockin’, I wonder how far I’ll get telling them I haven’t been able to find a compromise on reducing my debt!

It’s called bankruptcy, they do it all the time. Stop using the cards, they hate that. Pay off your unsecured credit card debt, you’ll have more money when you do. I just wish they could exchange places with those in the unemployment lines. That’s where they deserve to be.

Actually, I at this point in the grift I don’t think they care about retail banking (opinion of, amongst others, of Doug Henwood).  The targets are black and grey market banking and the ever escalating casino economy.  We 99%ers have been dealt out except for the image potential and an infinitely manageable “public opinion.”

The relative scale is hard to appreciate.  I have been confronted by children to explain various large numbers. I tend to start with something they can relate to at their age, a car, a house, etc.  Then I do the division and say how many cars, etc. -  say - that the War on Terror has cost us.  A reasonable figure so far is five and a half trillion - like this:

5,500,000,000/car ($10,000 family car, used, distressed perhaps) =

550,000 cars.  One for every two households.  The numbers involved in the banking scams are much larger than that, but what is important is the towering scale of the numbers we are supposed to make sense of as out retirement accounts and home values are depleted.

To those who argue that term limits would end the problem: We already have term limits, they are called elections.  Until state laws are rewritten that prohibit ‘Congress as a career,’ we are going tohave this kind of gridlock.  It was tried in California and Colorado in the 1990’s, but the federal courts ruled that and kind of term limits must be written into the Constitution.  In California, there are term limits and the California Legislature is as dysfunctional as Congress.  Californians also approved an ‘Open Primary System,’ which will now have the two top vote getters to face off in the general election, no matter their party affiliation.

reaaly getting impatient with this dysfunctional excuse. Citizens, we are in the beginning of a civil war. At every corner, the right wing sets up a line and attacks citizens, laws, jobs, fair government efforts to work, and politicians that represent us. Its a planned exercise, not a mistake. 100% of the voters need to vote out all GOP candidates, or beware. These GOP parasites are at War with America.

In the end, the real problem is our uninformed electorate.  You can blame propaganda machines like Fox News, corporate lobbyists, corporate news, religion, cowardice, stupidity, greed, sociopathic members of congress, reality TV - whatever floats your boat - but in the end we are doing this to ourselves.  Everyone in Congress who stands in the way of progress and the nation’s needs was elected with tens of thousands of votes The world has become more complex, and it is not easy to understand things like the effects of CO2 in the upper atmosphere much less derivatives, but it is not rocket science and the information is available to anyone willing to take the time to understand it.  What always makes me laugh in the midst of this ongoing, self-inflicted disaster is the 9% who still think Congress is doing a bang up job.

I agree, Max. We have a corrupt congress and an electorate that either (a) doesn’t recognize it or (b) don’t know what to do about it. The answer is simple: VOTE ALL INCUMBENTS OUT!

Ahh voting!  Rarely, if ever has voting made a difference.  Virtually all our so called representatives are reelected.  We are ranked thirty something in the world for running our so called democratic elections.  Elections are great for concentrated wealth.  They are so easy to control and leave behind the impression of popular consent.  Black Box voting (blackboxvoting.org) is still the way of the land.  In the distant future, after cleaning out our criminals-in-charge, we might be able to use electoral politics again, but I can’t imagine why.  Now we must resort to direct forms of democracy, something the predatory elite calls “mob rule.”  It is very messy but it is all we have.

Wow. I have a simple question that was not apparent on a quick scan of the site…. What in the hell is Black Box Voting? How does it differ from what we have?

Seems to me that Democrats were forced into a “fight fire with fire” methodology to be competetive in campaign fundraising because of Gingrich’s evil doings.
I think it’s worth mentioning the possible timeline correlation between 1971 Powell Memo and increase inequality gap over last 30+ yrs.  Please read Powell Memo…it will blow your mind, but put where we are now into even more perspective
Lastly, call me whatever, but I’m an optimist at heart.
I am hopeful in 2012 that Senate Dems get enough majority that prevents blatant GOP obstructionism/filibustering as they did ‘08-‘10; that Democrats regain House and that Obama is re-elected.
THEN, if by 2016, Citz United isn’t repealed, tax codes aren’t reformed, bankers aren’t indicted, unemployment isn’t substantially reduced, wars are or near non-existent, yada yada yada, we replace them with a well vetted & prepared 3rd Party of Progressive alternatives…and god forbid, NOT GOP or tea party bots.

Dear Jack,

Black Box Voting was a phrase that addressed the irregularities introduced into our system my unsupervised electronic voting.  It is also the name of a web site dedicated to election skullduggery.

herb

Thanks Herb. So it is a form of letting steam rather than an alternative voting system. See http://moneyedpoliticians.net/2010/05/09/instant-runoff-voting-it-is-time/ It is of course fair, and politicians don’t like fair,

And Kart, I’d suggest primarying every politician out there with progressives.

The commitee needed to identfied the problems, activate the fixes, educate the citizenship.  Get it done.  Not too big a job, not my job and thus throwing in the towel. No excuse either resign or be fired.  Vote them out. As an American are all feelin the crunch, having to make due.

The reason that they have created an impasse over small increases in taxes is that “the deeper and worse off the economy is in during the election cycles, the better the chance for change.”  That means a neo-con take over.  And, the impasse at this time is not hurting the wealthy (campaign funders).  They are not the ones out of work and losing money.  It is the middle class and poor thae it is hurting.  Once the election is over, then if the take over is in place, the rich will indeed profit and the politicians are reap the benefits.

The problem with ANY kind of future reform is that the people we need to think straight and clean things up,  are the ones with their hands in the cookie jar that don"t want the system to function.

“I could end the deficit in 5 minutes,“You just pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election

The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only
3 months & 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971…before computers, e-mail, cell phones, etc.

Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land…all because of public pressure.
In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message. This is one idea that really should be passed around.

Congressional Reform Act of 2011
1. No Tenure / No Pension.
A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.
All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.

3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen.
Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S.) to receive the message. Maybe it is time.

THIS IS HOW YOU FIX CONGRESS!!!!!

Time they were all booted out of office and we start over. Check out http://www.goooh.com (Get Out Of Our House) whose stated mission is to fire all members of the house and use a different method to elect the house.

Sorry about this folks

With this severity of structural imbalance in wealth, the only jobs left are in the hands of mega corporations, and there is nothing, nothing, we or all the wishful thinking can do to stop them from getting whatever they want

They are everywhere, the highest court is corrupt, armies are paid to craft opinion, they sponsor ‘public’ media, hiring the ‘best and the brightest’ to rework the discussion no matter where it appears, egregiously ‘crafting’ opinion.

In the past I was hopeful, but now I see this is all we have left

It’s not just about Wall Street abuses (although this is the current mirage), it’s about the poisoning of the water, the ruination of the atmosphere, the whole rock we precariously perch upon

There used to be many more dimensions in the struggle, now right is right, left is left, so the story goes, it’s just a big illusion, Barnum’s mermaid. 

They is not even ‘they’, it is something non-human, something bigger than just a corrupt ceo or politician, a life-force machine that scale creates, operating in its own Darwinian self-interest

We can watch the whole thing come down slowly slowly, America won’t have it’s Tahrir for another fifty years, most people are either too delusionary, or too comfortable and dependent to give it any thought much less take up the fight against it

Did we have this level of disfunction before the Christian Right began sending their intransigent, self-righteous, fraudulently-pius bozos to Congress ?????

Angel Teodoro

Nov. 25, 2011, 1:24 p.m.

Partisanship has become a monster that bewitched the American people. There has been too much grandstanding in both houses of congress and too little output beneficial to the people. If this kind of democracy persists, the USA would fall.

Ironically, I am proud of the recent debate in congress. Representatives are actually trying to ‘Represent’ the views of those who elected them. Despite what you hear in the media, most Americans want to limit government. Republicans have held fairly firm on reducing spending and not raising taxes. The Occupy people believe that government should be separate from big business and that Lobbyists shouldn’t be allowed to influence policy. The Tea Party believes the same thing! Our contry has been prosperous because our government’s powers were limited by the constitution. If we limit government and the money they have to spend, we get them out of picking winners and losers in business. Then the Lobbyists will have no reason to be there.  We MUST REDUCE the size of government and limit it’s powers by following the constitution. The government can’t solve everyones problems, the people can.

You must be drinking their Kool-Aid. Yes we need limited government, but you do that by stopping the campaign corruption that grows government. And lobbying in itself is not bad, in fact it is needed to educate the politicians. What is bad is lobbying with cash in hand. IF we had a non-conflicted congress we’d have both a limited government and lower taxes, and at the same time “justified” spending.

The last thing we need in this country right now is a president making policy and procedure with out Congress. TOO much power. But it does sorta go along with what i think is this president ideas of Democracr, which is really Socialism.

Bruce, though your reform act has good thoughts behind it, but we’ll just end up with a congress of people already so wealthy they will be able to afford a job with what to them are just inconvenient restrictions on direct compensation, immediate or deferred. The long (and short) term non-governmental compensation and power associated with these positions will be easily afforded those without any need for employer provided medical coverage or retirement funds.

Reed, you say to get the government “out of picking winners and losers in business” and that it can’t “solve everyone[’]s problems.”  The profoundly trivial examples of “picking” is overshadowed by the dominance of enormously concentrated international corporations in making most decisions about the environment – both social and natural, and these corporate denizens have the biggest vote of all in Washington. The problem is not government trying to be too big, but that the conservatives amongst us are trying to wither the social protections that protect the overwhelming majority of human beings living under this unbelievably concentrated control of the market place and distribution of the social wealth.

Randall, social wealth does not mean what you as “Socialism,” but, rather, the wealth created by the productive output of society as a whole. Yes, some citizens are incredibly creative and help channel human energies of very many, and should be justly compensated, and some are clever and energetic entrepreneurially, successfully supporting their families and providing some compensation to several, dozens, or sometimes hundreds of other families. And many are downtrodden by poverty of moral and spiritual development, festooned by addictions to alcohol or other drugs, or simply hopelessness. But all are frail humans with a short life with those they love and love them. Government must serve the needs of “the People,” each precious one.

The People and its Government must assume protection from corruption, usurpation, economic misery and the crippling distortion of democracy coming from the all too few who slop greedily from the common wealth produced by the efforts of so many.

How do we get to a State of leaders with whit and compassion, who speak of thoughts and not sound bites, and are sworn to protect all Souls upon the ship of these States. To tell and share and educate all we know that when in the course of human events the self-evident and unalienable rights of the many are torn asunder by the long train of abuses by a state of, by and for the corporate entities ordained by our Highest and Rightest court, it is the right and duty of the People to create a government to serve the needs and protect the rights of all beings amongst us.

The demise of our system of government began when the term “public servant” lost it’s meaning. Public service was the original plan for governing this nation. It was never intended to be a money making profession as it has turned out to be. The only way to reform our government is to vote out all those in any government office, every election, until we no longer have professional politicians. Only then will they vote to stop their large salaries, retirement funds, free insurance, and many other benefits. Only then will lobbyist be declared illegal and called by it’s proper name “Payola”.

Regarding Our Congress Malady: A SOLUTION
First, cut the connection between big money (Kochs, Murdoch etc) with the media ( particularly Fox News, Wall Street Journal) by ignoring them.
Second, get rid of the Washington Lobby -they pull the strings of their puppets or congressmen.
Third, DO NOT RE-ELECT THE PUPPETS, REPLACE THEM WITH NEW BLOOD ! We have a poweful weapon: OUR VOTE

The congress is disfunctional simply because there are two groups: ONE WORKING FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE’S INTERESTS and the other working for the BIG CORPORATIONS’ INTERESTS and unfortunately these ones have the mayority in the Congress.

While these relation persits the Congress will never function, as simple as that.

Get Updates

Stay on top of what we’re working on by subscribing to our email digest.

optional

Our Hottest Stories

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •