It's Not Just Congress - the System Has Failed

Sandra Bloom is in a frustrating position, and she feels stuck.

She put faith in people to do some work for her - and they've failed.

Not only did they fail to fulfill promises, they've created a bigger mess than the one they were supposed to fix.

Like many Americans, Bloom hoped the U.S. Congress would improve the country's struggling economy this year. Instead, she watched elected leaders squabble and finger-point while the U.S. credit rating was downgraded and federal debt climbed past $14 trillion.

"I am so angry at Congress for the way it is not doing its job," Bloom wrote in an e-mail to Money Morning. "There is no longer any attempt to do what is best for the country, no attempt to compromise."

Bloom shared her thoughts on what's wrong with Congress in response to a dismal CBS News/New York Times poll in early August that revealed 82% of Americans disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job - the highest disapproval rating since polling began in 1977.

This was on the heels of a USA Today/Gallup Poll in Julythat showed just 7% of Americans believed their representatives in Washington were negotiating in good faith when it came to the debt-ceiling debate.

We asked you, our readers, just what's wrong with Congress - and the overwhelming majority emphatically agreed: Elected representatives are only out for their own interests, not those of the people.

"All they have been doing is playing chicken to see who blinks first, and the American public is the loser," said Bloom. "They would rather one side's ideas be defeated than accomplish any meaningful legislation."

That could mean it's time for a change.

"My country is falling apart!" wrote reader Keith W. "We the people of this great nation need to come together as one and tell Congress enough is enough!"

The e-mails poured in with many readers sharing the exact same thoughts. If nothing is done, political parties' bickering will continue to stall progress in Washington and result in worse consequences than the recent credit rating downgrade.

"While I don't agree with everything President Obama has done, the Republicans only show me gridlock and their inability to compromise, rather than accomplish something," wrote Ruth M. "They want it all and my guess is, they aren't going to get it without a long fight. In other words, there will be a second "downgrade" for our country because of their inability to give-and-take."

Besides Congress' inability to reach agreements, many readers fault leaders' logic - or lack thereof - when proposing how to fix the economy, especially when it comes to job creation.

"If I hear one more person classify the extremely wealthy class as the job creators, I'm going to scream," said Mike L. "Don't you have to create jobs to be classified as a job creator?"

Another major complaint is that the U.S. Congress seems to favor the rich, while continuously finding ways to get money from everyone else.

"If you follow closely the markets and politics, like I do, you can see that everything is stacked against the middle class and poor," said reader Allen N. "Who will pay the taxes when the rich won't, and the middle class is strapped and disappearing, and the poor can't? It should be obvious to everyone that the "trickle down" theory doesn't work - due to greed."

While the majority of blame goes to the elected - or hope-to-be-elected - representatives, Americans also blame the media for failing to focus on candidates who support the "real" issues for the country.

"It is not very reassuring to see the televised Republican Party leadership debates with the main focus on those who do not represent the views and wishes of the American people, but rather the aspirations of themselves," wrote reader Gary C. "The focus is always on something else; i.e., the mouthy female with the big hair or the guy with the impeccable tan."

So now that we have an idea of what's wrong with Congress, how do we get a better one?

Some of you suggested pay limits.

"Take away their benefits and make them live like the majority does and pay them only when they are in D.C. working," said Bill K.

Others pointed toward another money issue - the controversial topic of campaign contributions.

"The root of all this evil is the rules for campaign financing," wrote reader DD. "Our Congress and the administration is controlled by special interest groups, union influence, and high rollers. Campaign financing should be made very simple to prevent these groups from being able to influence government officials and elected officials for a pay back for their support."

Or, maybe it's time we turn to others for guidance, and adopt a new system of government.

"It may be time to look at the political setup the Canadians use; when there is a lack of confidence in the majority they are removed and new elections are scheduled," said reader Michael S. "Canada did not fall into the financial mess with their homes or banks, and lobbyists do not control the politicians to the extent they do in the U.S."

There were a few readers who said American voters aren't innocent, either, and need to choose their representatives better instead of falling for empty promises from "salespeople."

"The reason for the low ratings by the people is that they want to blame someone else for their problems," said reader JJ. "Personal responsibility is almost non-existent in this country. Until Americans grow up and start taking responsibility for their own lives, it's likely they will just keep on demanding something for nothing and we will continue electing the best salespeople."

Regardless of how we got here, everyone agreed it's time for a new approach to managing this country - but it won't be easy.

Reader David G. said that while it's definitely time for change, he hoped Americans could handle a potentially huge government overhaul.

"Is it time to amend the Constitution to force Congress to live under the same laws they pass for the people?" he asked. "Face it: the system doesn't work. Whether we're ready for changes of this magnitude is the real question for many."

But among the dismal outlooks was at least one hopeful sentiment that Americans can successfully resolve the country's economic woes.

"One of the major quality traits of the American people is versatility," wrote Glenn R. "If you try something and it doesn't work, try something else; "necessity through invention.' Government tries the same old things year after year. Government needs to change its laws to arrest this continuing mishandling of finances, purchases and budgets. Enough mishandling of the country - employ the talented money-makers, America!"

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