There's more to Election 2012 than a neck-and-neck presidential race: the U.S. Congress.
The 112th Congress is up for its biennial performance review, and by all accounts -including its own – it has done a terrible job.
A damning record of failure and incompetence makes it clear why America should fire Congress next week.
"Worst ever? In the modern era, there's not even much room for debate," said USAToday in a recent editorial.
"With power split between the Republican-controlled House and Democrat-led Senate, lawmakers made no discernible progress on major national problems such as exploding entitlement costs, immigration and climate change," USAToday continued. "Not only that, they ran from what in prior years would have been routine legislation."
Polls show that Americans have been more dissatisfied than ever with their "do-nothing Congress."
Gallup's approval rating for Congress, measured monthly, fell to an all-time low of 10% in February, rose into the teens over the spring and early summer before hitting 10% again in August.
Each May Rasmussen Reports conducts a poll that specifically asks people whether they would vote "to get rid of the entire Congress and start over again" if such a thing were possible, or to keep the entire Congress.
This year 68% said they would vote to dismiss the entire group of lawmakers, up from 62% in 2011 and 57% in 2009. Just 12% of those polled said they'd keep this Congress, and 20% were undecided.
Election 2012: Do-Nothing Congress Has No Excuses
Many members of Congress admit they have done a poor job, though they tend to blame the opposing party rather than take responsibility.
"We have spent virtually the entire year avoiding doing serious business because the majority doesn't want to take any difficult votes," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, said last month. "It is really quite embarrassing that the Senate is so dysfunctional."
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats blame the Republican House.
"The Senate has produced bipartisan bills on issues from farm policy to postal reform to China currency," Brian Fallon, a spokesman for the Senate Democratic leadership told The New York Times. "But it takes two chambers to pass a law, and the other side of the building considers compromise a dirty word."
Both sides point fingers, but bipartisan cooperation is part of their job description. And their bosses – you and me – expect results, not excuses and fingerpointing.
"Most people just don't understand why Democrats and Republicans can't get together and split at least some of their differences," Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics told Reuters.
Why to Fire Congress
So what exactly does a do-nothing Congress look like?
Here's a list of what our current batch of lawmakers have – or, more to the point, haven't – done over the past two years:
- Fewest laws passed: The primary job of Congress is to pass laws, and on that score this group has failed miserably. The 112th Congress has passed just 174 laws so far (with just one post-election lame duck session to go), far below the previous low of 333 set by the 104th Congress.
- No budget: Astonishingly, this Congress has failed to pass a budget, an issue it inherited from the 111th Congress. That's right. Congress has not passed a budget – another of its major duties as required by law — in more than three years (since April 29, 2009). In that time, the federal government has added $4.8 trillion in debt.
- Skimped on hearings: Many Congressional committees fell short on another key responsibility – holding hearings, a vital tool for conducting oversight and investigating problems. In his annual Wastebook, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, cited several committees that held far fewer than their usual number of hearings in 2012, including the Senate Budget Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the House Small Business Committee. "Many high school student councils have been more deliberative than the U.S. Senate," Coburn wrote.
- Credit rating damage: The standoff in the summer of 2011 over the need to raise the nation's debt ceiling resulted in a downgrade to the U.S. credit rating for the first time in history as the rating agencies lost faith in Washington's ability to solve is fiscal problems.
- The fiscal cliff: The failure of Congress to address the nation's critical budget issues means America now faces the "fiscal cliff," a combination of the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts (which will effectively raise taxes) and mandatory spending cuts agreed to in previous budget deals. The last chance for lawmakers to act is during the lame duck session after the election, but the uncertainty over the fiscal cliff has already slowed business spending.
Needless to say, this Congress has not spent its time wisely.
RELATED: Congress isn't the only group damaging our economy. .
Congress has instead preoccupied itself with such frivolities as naming buildings – at least 19 bills this year alone attached a name to a federal building.
And although most lawmakers are back home campaigning, Congress technically is still in session … busy doing absolutely nothing.
Twice a week a handful of representatives meet in the House for a three-minute session — just long enough for a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. And the Senate can't even muster that effort, with its Oct. 9 session lasting only 25 seconds.
Such incompetence needs to have consequences, or it will go on forever. It's up to the boss – the American voter – to hand out the pink slips on Nov. 7, the day after Election 2012.
As author and humorist Mark Twain put it: "Politicians are like diapers; they need to be changed often, and for the same reason."
Related Articles and News:
- Money Morning:
This Year's Most Outrageous Examples of Wasteful Government Spending
- Money Morning:
Why America Hates Congress
- Money Morning:
Fiscal Cliff Not a Priority for This Do-Nothing Congress
Congress Approval Ties All-Time Low at 10%
- Rasmussen Reports:
New High: 68% Would Vote To Replace Entire Congress
- The Washington Post:
14 reasons why this is the worst Congress ever
- The Fiscal Times:
Do Nothing Congress Did Something: Named Buildings
- Sen. Tom Coburn:
About the Author
David Zeiler, Associate Editor for Money Morning at Money Map Press, has been a journalist for more than 35 years, including 18 spent at The Baltimore Sun. He has worked as a writer, editor, and page designer at different times in his career. He's interviewed a number of well-known personalities - ranging from punk rock icon Joey Ramone to Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak.
Over the course of his journalistic career, Dave has covered many diverse subjects. Since arriving at Money Morning in 2011, he has focused primarily on technology. He's an expert on both Apple and cryptocurrencies. He started writing about Apple for The Sun in the mid-1990s, and had an Apple blog on The Sun's web site from 2007-2009. Dave's been writing about Bitcoin since 2011 - long before most people had even heard of it. He even mined it for a short time.
Dave has a BA in English and Mass Communications from Loyola University Maryland.