Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Why Is Our Congress So Dysfunctional?

A Reading Guide:

Lois Beckett at ProPublica has compiled an excellent list of articles dealing with why our two political parties in Congress are constantly engaged in death grips on one another and just won't let go. Here are some brief excerpts from some if the articles (with some added boldface emphasis from me).

Congress’ approval ratings are 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.
… 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.”
… Congress has actually taken a turn for the worse — 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 ...
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 .
The confirmation process of many of the president’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 the Chief Justice John G. Roberts, who said that the delays are impairing the judicial system.
Norman Ornstein’s Foreign Policy article, Worst. Congress. Ever.” provides a helpful overview of what’s the matter with Congress, from a man who’s been a Congressional expert for decades.
Members of Congress are raising money instead of building working relationships in DC
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) published a detailed chronology of how fundraising has changed Congress. 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 make large donations to other candidates in their party.
George Packer’s New Yorker story on dysfunction in the Senate — perhaps the most vivid and comprehensive take on this issue—also elaborates what kind of impact fund-raising pressure has on senators. “Of any free time you have, I would say fifty per cent, maybe even more,” is spent on fund-raising, one senator told Packer. “It sucks up time that a senator ought to be spending getting to know other senators, working on issues ...” 
William J. Bennett argues: “Don't mistake broken government for the growing pains of a democratic republic.”
Lois Beckett's complete article, along with reference sources, can be found at ProPublica's Reading Guide: Why Is Congress So Dysfunctional?

Coming Up

How Congress Has Occupied Wall Street.
                    Big Problems with Our Two-Party System

Elections :Heart of Democracy or Height of Hypocrisy?

In Presidential Debates, Duopoly Reigns

No comments:

Post a Comment