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Why Congress is in the dump

By Henry Lamb           
web posted October 22, 2007

There is a reason why 89% of the people disapprove of the job the U.S. Congress is doing.  What Congress is doing, mostly, is jockeying for political advantage.  The recent resurrection of the Armenian genocide declaration is a classic example. Why is it so important that Congress pass this resolution condemning an event that occurred in 1915 - at this particular time?

There can be only one reason: it will infuriate Turkey, and may result in either an invasion by Turkey into North Iraq, or it could provoke Turkey into blocking our military’s primary route to re-supply our troops.  Either of these outcomes would be a negative for our forces in Iraq, which would make for more “bad news” headlines about Iraq, which the ruling party thinks might help them expand their majority in the next election.

This political game-playing is idiotic, and the American people see through it, and consequently, the approval ratings of Congress have plummeted to all-time low 11%, well below the approval rating of an unpopular president.

Many of the bills now pending in Congress are designed to get votes, not to meet  legitimate needs of the nation.  For example, HR 1975 will designate about seven million more acres as wilderness to add to the existing 107,436,608 acres already designated as wilderness.  How much wilderness does the nation need?

Once designated as wilderness, the land is accessible, essentially, to only healthy hikers.  The resources are locked up, forever.  Of course, that’s the idea, to prevent logging, mining, and drilling.  This increases the nation’s dependency upon foreign sources for the needed  resources. Congress is playing to the environmental groups who have complained bitterly about the absence of such designations during the Republican era. 

Consider the response to the president’s veto of the SCHIPS, the bill that would have provided government-subsidized health insurance to families with incomes in excess of $80,000 per year.  The president wanted a program for children in families with income of $40,000 per year and less.  Now that the president has vetoed the bill, Congressional leaders are parading to the TV cameras to paint the president as anti-children.

What happened to honest debate? 

Congress is charged with the responsibility of adopting appropriation bills by September 30 for the following fiscal year.  None have been passed.  Congress is using the threat of a presidential veto on bills that exceed his budget as the reason for its inaction.  Budget fights are common, but the refusal to work on appropriation bills, in order to focus on a resolution about an event that occurred in 1915 in Europe, is the stuff which results in the outpouring of public disapproval.

With the elections only 13 months away, Congressmen are thinking more and more about what it will take to keep their job.  What the nation needs is far less important.   Ask any Congressman why he has not offered a bill to solve the looming social security disaster.  The president tried in vain to get Congress to deal with this issue during his first term.  Congressional response can best be described as zero.

There are a few honest, conscientious people in Congress, who work hard every day to advance ideas that will benefit the nation.  They, however, are a distinct minority.  They are overwhelmed by leadership that wants nothing less than complete power in Washington, in the White House, and a veto-proof majority in Congress.  This is the primary goal of Congressional leadership from now until the election. 

Look for bills that will curry votes for the Democrats, or cause embarrassment for the Republicans.  Don’t expect genuine debate on anything; look instead, for rhetoric that denigrates Republicans and extols the virtues of Democrats.

To a very large extent, what’s going on in Washington these days, is not responsible government; it is irresponsible politics.  Many, many people have just tuned out, and refuse to even listen to the noise rising from the environs of the Capitol dome.  Others, even traditional political junkies, are disgusted with the bickering and meaningless rhetoric that fills the evening newscasts.  And it’s not likely to improve soon.

Sadly, it seems that the only thing that unites this nation is a national disaster.   And even this unity fades quickly.  In a free society, there must be diversity of ideas, and freedom to argue and advance those ideas.  But when the goal changes from producing the best possible solution, to nothing more than simply prevailing in order to retain power, the society is destined for tyranny.    

Tyranny by Republicans is no better than tyranny by Democrats.  We need a new crop of representatives who are more concerned about this country than about the next election. ESR

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.

 

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