We have ourselves to blame for Congress' lamentable performance. Public criticism of Congress for inefficiency overlooks the fact that it was not designed to be efficient, or the Founding Fathers would have stuck with the one-house legislature of the Articles of Confederation. They considered Congress the most dangerous branch of government, needing to be restrained by requiring the assent of two houses as well as the president. Separation of powers is not a fast-track principle.
Voters added to the likelihood of stalemate in 2010 by giving Republicans control of the House while retaining a Democratic majority in the Senate. So at a time when Democrats and Republicans can't even agree on who is buried in Grant's Tomb, dividing control of the national legislature is a pretty good prescription for inaction and discord.
Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House, recently observed that "if elections have consequences — which I think they do — some of those consequences are getting what you vote for. In this case, many people voted for people who thought compromise was not something they ought to participate in."
So before we heat the tar and pluck the feathers to apply to Congress, we need to consider the others who contribute to the apparent dysfunction.
Accessible to all, especially the news media, Congress' sins and shortcoming are on constant public display. The deliberations of others whose results Congress must ultimately deal with are not so transparent.
The robbery committed under a street light is going to have many more eyewitnesses than a mugging in a dark alley.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Don't Blame Congress
At USA Today, Ross Baker of Rutgers says that we should not blame Congress for the government's problems: