In Defense of Congress
Posted on November 28, 2011
Congress deserves our respect and the people who serve in Congress deserve our admiration.
I actually meant to type that sentence.
And I know that it is counterintuitive.
I am part of the 9 percent who actually approve of the job that Congress is doing, and I admire greatly those men and women who sacrifice their privacy, their personal security and their fortunes to serve the people.
I understand why most Americans have a dislike of politicians. They seem shifty, overly ambitious, slick and difficult to pin down.
But think about it from the politician’s perspective.
They have to work hard every day to represent all of their constituents. If they say one thing wrong, or make a bad joke or unwittingly offend somebody, their comments are used against them and their family for months on end.
In those circumstances, you would be careful too.
Just about every member of Congress in either chamber works their butt off. They have to learn the issues. They have to attend committee hearings. They have to vote on the floor. They have to meet with various interest groups. They have to meet with their colleagues. When they fly home on weekends, they have to meet with constituents.
And they have to do fundraising. They usually go to a fundraising breakfast, a fundraising lunch and a fundraising dinner. And if they aren’t fundraising at a meal, they are making phone calls to potential donors.
They have to spend so much of their time fundraising, because if they don’t, they either won’t get reelected or they won’t be able to gain more influence with their colleagues. Most of these members of Congress didn’t invent this system of campaign financing, but they have to play the game if they want to survive.
For all of this hard work, these elected representatives earn the privilege of getting the tar beat out of them every election year. It is not just their opponents who beat them up. Many times, it is their so-called friends. Just imagine if you are a politician who sits down to watch some television with your kids, and as you are sitting there, you are whacked around with a barrage of 30-seconds ads, accusing you of doing all kinds of dastardly things to the environment or to babies or to old people or to the economy or of being a crook.
That is what the modern politician has to face just about every day.
And then the press accuses them of not being normal.
You wouldn’t be normal either.
Now let’s turn our attention to the failure of Congress to act on some major issues.
Of course, the top issue is jobs, but there are other looming issues. Entitlement reform, education, the environment, war and peace, terrorism, immigration — all occupy a place of concern with the American voters.
On jobs, I am going to say something controversial. It is not the job of Congress to create a job for you. When Congress creates a job, it usually is not a very good or very productive job. But that is not what the American people want to hear. They want Congress to focus on jobs. And so Congress fumbles around trying to find a nonexistent formula to get people back to work.
The American people want action on the deficit, except as polls show, they don’t want cuts to Medicare and Social Security. But you can’t balance the budget by cutting foreign aid and raising taxes on rich people. The numbers simply don’t work.
The supercommittee failed to resolve any big issues, and looking back on it, maybe that is a good thing. The American people certainly didn’t want to go there on deficit reduction and if anything, Congress must be attentive to the will of the people.
It was H. L. Mencken who said, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.”
Congress is doing the will of the people and doing it good and hard.
A version of the above post appeared in the Hill on November 28, 2011.