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Worst Congress Ever??

This is from my internet buddy Steve Benen. It is brilliant.

I don’t think it’s online anymore, but Matt Taibbi had a fantastic cover story for Rolling Stone in October 2006 about the Republican-led Congress, shortly before Democrats won both chambers.

“These were the years,” Taibbi wrote, “when the U.S. parliament became a historical punch line, a political obscenity on par with the court of Nero or Caligula — a stable of thieves and perverts who committed crimes rolling out of bed in the morning and did their very best to turn the mighty American empire into a debt-laden, despotic backwater, a Burkina Faso with cable.”

The article included one of my favorite all-time quotes: Jonathan Turley told Taibbi, “The 109th Congress is so bad that it makes you wonder if democracy is a failed experiment.”

It seemed literally impossible at the time, but five years later, we appear to have found a Congress that’s even worse. Norm Ornstein, a respected congressional scholar, argued this week, “Americans have complained for years that their government is broken. This time they’re right.”

Dana Carvey had a character during his years on Saturday Night Live who was a crotchety old man complaining about how much better everything was “in my day,” the imagined halcyon times of his past. After almost 42 years immersed in the politics of Congress, I have to check myself regularly to avoid falling into the same trap. When I came to Washington in 1969, for example, the city was riven with division and antagonism over the Vietnam War, which segued into the impeachment of a president, followed by many other difficult and contentious moments.

In this case, though, Carvey’s old man would be right: The hard reality is that for all their rancor, those times were more functional, or at least considerably less dysfunctional, than what we face with Congress today.

Ornstein wrote this last week, before Congress set itself on a path to crash the American economy on purpose.

His piece is well worth reading, and shines an important light on structural impediments that prevent the legislative branch from functioning as it should.

But from where I sit, Ornstein goes a little too easy on congressional Republicans. Congress is still capable of functioning as an institution. Indeed, over 2009 and 2010, we saw our share of frustrating legislative disputes, but an enormous amount of successful policymaking was completed. Had the Senate been able to operate by majority rule — the way it used to — the 111th Congress would have been even more impressive.

The problem with the 112th isn’t a structural impediment; it’s the result of a radicalized Republican Party that has no use for compromise, evidence, or reason. We have a congressional GOP abandoning all institutional norms, pushing extremist policies, rejecting their own ideas if they enjoy Democratic support, and engaging in tactics that were once thought unthinkable from policymakers who put the nation’s needs first.

Is this the “Worst. Congress. Ever.” as the headline on Ornstein’s piece argues? After six months on the job, that seems extremely likely. Indeed, if this Congress deliberately causes a global economic catastrophe, the competition for the worst Congress ever will end quite quickly.

But the public needs to understand that Congress, at an institutional level, doesn’t bear all of the blame. The stark raving mad Republican Party does.

Tom DeLay, Dennis Hastert, Trent Lott, Bill Frist … who wouldn’t trade the current crop to get those guys back? I’d do it in a heartbeat.

To borrow from Turley, I’ve never been more inclined to wonder if our democracy is a failed experiment than I am now.

By | 2011-07-24T09:05:30+00:00 July 24th, 2011|Budget, Congress|Comments Off on Worst Congress Ever??

Madness: Budget Crisis

Every now and then, when I look at the madness that’s going on in Washington DC, I just want to sit everybody down and tell them that, hey,they can be serious just for a second. It seems like I’m watching some comedy routine from Saturday Night Live.

Republicans are running around saying that we are broke. They point out that we have a $1.25 trillion deficit. If we don’t balance the budget and close this deficit soon China and other countries will stop financing our debt. Yet, the Republicans have offered absolutely not one shred of evidence that China or any other country has started talking about changing their fiscal policy and investing in something other than treasury bills.
This is none other than Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine. In her fantastic book, she describes how conservatives have created crises or taken advantage of crises in order to push through their agenda. Today, the crisis (created crisis) is the US budget. Conservatives have wanted to cut discretionary spending and free up more money for tax cuts for the wealthy and corporate tax cuts for the even wealthier. That’s all this is. $1.25 trillion. It sounds like a lot of money. If you had it in your bank account, you would think it’s a lot of money. But in the context of a country with over 300 million people, it’s not a lot of money. It’s approximately $4000 per person. So, we can fix this budget crisis by simply raising 4 grand. Bam! Budget crisis fixed.
If you’re going to be serious about fixing the budget, and the Republicans are not, you have to look at the major expenses. Defense, Social Security and health care. These three items make up over 60% of the budget. Cut spending here and you can really make headway into fixing some of our budgetary problems. Republicans, though, have excluded these three items from their budgetary ax. Why? From my point view, it’s because they’re not serious. Their agenda is to take away the safety net that supports many Americans. They want Americans working for low wages. A cheap labor force makes business happy. The only thing better than a cheap labor force would be a cheap labor force that is fearful of not being able to have a job and grateful for any job that they have.
By | 2011-03-03T00:53:34+00:00 March 3rd, 2011|Budget|2 Comments

SNL tries desperately to be relevant

There’s a lot of discussion on some of the talk shows today about Saturday Night Live’s skit on Barack Obama. Fred Armisen has played Barack Obama for the last year or so. The skit focused on Barack Obama’s lack of accomplishments. I’ve embedded Saturday Night Live — above.

I guess there are several issues. First, Fred is not that good as Barack Obama. Besides the ears, I don’t think he is that funny. I don’t think he looks like him nor does he act like him. He doesn’t talk like him. Several months back, Saturday Night Live made themselves relevant again by doing funny impersonations of Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton. The mannerisms and speech patterns were very good.

Secondly, Saturday Night Live has not been consistently funny since the early 1980s. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure how they’ve stayed on the air this long. I’m sure somebody’s watching them. I’m just not sure who.

Finally, I’m trying not to be an old stick in the mud. Many liberals will laugh at caricatures of conservatives but not of other liberals. I think if something is funny, I’ll laugh at it. I simply think that this wasn’t all that funny. Barack Obama inherited a huge mess. The economy was shedding more than 600,000 jobs per month. The banks were not lending any money to anyone. Barack Obama passed a huge stimulus bill which has saved us from a second Great Depression. If this is Barack Obama’s only accomplishment in four years it would be better than the last eight years. Many liberals are unhappy with Barack Obama and his stance on torture prosecutions and closing Guantánamo Bay. I agree and feel their frustration. Yet, I feel that Guantánamo Bay will be closed by the end of the year. Policies have been implemented to prevent torture. He did get re-authorization for an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Act. He also signed into law a bill for equal pay for women which it been opposed by the Bush administration. Plus, he saved us from a second Great Depression — I know, I mentioned it twice. It was worth mentioning again and again.

By | 2009-10-06T01:56:09+00:00 October 6th, 2009|Congress, Domestic Issues, Obama administration|Comments Off on SNL tries desperately to be relevant