What if Congress had not convened this year?
With all the recent evidence of how dysfunctional Congress is, I’ve begun wondering, What if the 113th Congress had done nothing at all? What if the members of the 113th Congress had simply not shown up in January? What if they’d all stayed home to drink tea and play golf at their local country clubs? Where would we be today?
We’d be a less divided country, less suspicious of the other guy’s motives. We wouldn’t be wondering if our neighbors supported the other party, the one obviously responsible for tearing the country apart. We wouldn’t be watching our elected representatives fighting like school children instead of acting like responsible adults.
Confidence in our economy would still be improving as more people got jobs, interest rates stayed down, houses began to sell, the stock market strengthened, and we and other nations would be growing increasingly optimistic that things were indeed, finally, getting better.
Congress would still have a glowing 10% popularity rating instead of an unimaginably historically bad 5%.
We’d be without the 13 new laws that Congress has passed this year (including the Right to Fish Act, the Reducing Flight Delays Act, and an act specifying the size of the blanks used in the production of National Baseball Hall of Fame coins), none of which concerned jobs. And Congress wouldn’t be locked in battle over laws that have already been passed — like the Affordable Care Act, signed into law in March 2010 and subsequently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Our international reputation would not be suffering. Foreign nations would not be watching in horror, fear, or possibly glee, as the government of the world’s most powerful nation, already a circular firing squad, continues to fire.
The American people would not be marching in the streets because their jobs were yanked out from under them, their incomes cut off without warning, and their public services shut down.
The government’s lights would still be on and its wheels still turning. Congress’s most basic job is to keep the government running. But this Congress has deliberately turned off the lights and locked the wheels. They have deliberately and, some would say, with malice, stopped the functioning of selected (“non-essential”) segments of the U.S. government.
The shortcomings of this Congress are remarkably similar to those of the last Congress, which was deemed the “worst Congress ever” by the Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein. Except this Congress is 5% worse than that one.
And who is being hurt by all this? Who is paying the price? Not Congress, of course. They’re in charge. They fight their childish fights in marbled halls (that we paid for) while innocent Americans and the nation as a whole pay the price. It is they who should be losing their jobs, their staffs and offices, their health insurance, and every other perk they enjoy (not that they’d miss them). It is they who should be stripped of power (something they would miss) and sent packing in the next election.
In the meantime, as has been suggested here before in similar circumstances, they should all be locked in a room together and provided with only bread and water until they reach an agreement.