A do-nothing Congress

By Reade Brower | Aug 21, 2014

“Often the accurate answer to a usage question begins, ‘It depends.’ And what it depends on most often is where you are, who you are, who your listeners or readers are, and what the purpose in speaking or writing is.” — Kenneth G. Wilson, author and professor, (1923-2003).

Politics are certainly personal and most of our personal views color the world as we see it. I try not to be an Obama apologist or one that blames everything on George W. Bush.

This week, I offer for debate that it is the do-nothing 112th Congress, under Republican control, that is most to blame for the morass that is in Washington today.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, joked recently that she wanted to apologize to the 80th Congress, which Harry Truman famously dubbed a do-nothing Congress when he campaigned for the presidency in 1948, for insulting their achievements by setting the bar at an all-time new low, completely smashing the 80th’s claim of incompetency.

While the 112th Congress (2011-2013) enacted a feeble 220 bills, most of which were trite and not controversial, the 80th Congress passed more than 900 bills. The 112th included 375 filibusters that killed or slowed down presidential appointments and 30 times votes were held to kill the health reform initiatives, even after they were passed into law. Common sense suggests that the time and energy used in doing nothing should have gone to enacting bi-partisan solutions to the problems our elected officials are voted into office to fix.

I stirred up a small hornet’s nest the last few weeks with some of the comments about race and hate perhaps motivating some of mess we call Washington, which I then retracted and changed course. Whether hate or race is part of the equation is not all that relevant, but readers wanted to jump all over that point and not deal with the real issues. I heard the irrelevant hyperbole not to “go to the old play book," etc. on several occasions.

Several letter writers would not go public with their thoughts; they wanted me to know that the media was liberal and that Obama has a secret hidden past. I wondered why anyone, left, right, or central, would not want to break the biggest story in the world if there were any truth in the accusations that continue to follow Obama around. You don’t think they would trade their liberal ways for a Pulitzer Prize and worldwide fame?

A couple readers did go public and you’ll find their views as letters to the editors. I thank them for sharing their differing opinions, and their facts and conjectures with our readership and, more so, for keeping the discussion going. You can’t find consensus if you don’t have discussion.

The more important piece is to stay on subject and not get lost in irrelevancies. For this column, the facts that lead the charge of incompetency is that our 113th Congress began with an approval rating of 14 percent, down from 15 percent for the do-nothing 112th Congress. Michael McCord, writing on Seacoastonline.com, cited a January poll done by Public Policy Polling that came in at an anemic 9 percent approval, a rating he called “far below the popularity of lice, Brussels sprouts, and root canals."

Pingree commented in that article that the ideological divide that exists in Congress is in a large part due to the less-than-robust work schedule set by Congressional leadership.

Common sense dictates that you can overcome a lot if you have the fortitude to work through the issues and create a common ground. Instead of that happening, limits are continually tested with too much energy used to fight and not enough used to fix and create compromise and problem solving. Even with soft deadlines, like the budget deadlines, our leaders test our patience and test the system to the brink of letting it collapse just for the sake of politics.

And lastly, there is health care. Instead of offering up ideas to improve the system, the opposition just wants to repeal it, and then what? Go back to a system that we know was broken?

The easy solution to health care is to incorporate it into our tax structure. That takes it away from it being influenced by insurance companies with their campaign contributions and makes it available to everyone. If the goal is for every American to have affordable health care, put it into our federal taxes; if using our tax dollars for war, our roads and to support education in our society is okay with the working public, why not health care?

Stupid is as Stupid Does

This is a new feature. Readers, please share with me by email your Stupid is as Stupid Does thought of the week.

Stupid of the Week

You know you’re stupid when you honk while stopped in traffic.

You know you’re stupid when you realize you’re AM radio works in the afternoon.

You know you’re stupid when you’re on the phone talking and you wonder out loud, “where did I put my phone down?”

Onward. Turn the page

 

Reade Brower can be reached at reade@freepressonline.com.

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