Incompetent 111th Congress

October 8th, 2010

By Tom Carter

The 111th Congress will, thankfully, pass into history on January 3, 2011.  It’s been one of the most partisan, rancorous, and generally incompetent in our recent history.  What it supposedly accomplished is highly unpopular with many people, and it failed to do some of the most important tasks of any Congress.

Aside from hyperpartisanship, this Congress will most likely be remembered for its health care legislation and economic stimulus bills.  In health care, it radically transformed one-sixth of the U.S. economy in ways that are still not fully understood — in the form of a massive 2,400 page bill that’s an administrative nightmare and that most members didn’t even read.  Its stimulus spending added significantly to the national debt with questionable effectiveness — according to the most authoritative source, the recession ended in June 2009, before most stimulus money had even been spent.

Irresponsible spending, complete disregard for the will of most of the people, corruption among its members, vicious partisan infighting, and failure to do much of its job — that’s the legacy of the 111th Congress.

The House and Senate couldn’t even adjourn to go campaigning without making a spectacle of themselves.   The House, on what should have been a routine matter, was evenly divided on whether members should run back to their districts to try to save their jobs or stay in Washington to do their jobs.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi had to cast the one vote necessary to permit adjournment.  The Senate, for its part, left town under a compromise that kept it technically in session to stop President Obama from making recess appointments.

When they return to Washington for a lame duck session after the election, they’ll have to rush through the basic things they should have already done, including:

  • Decide on whether to extend the Bush tax cuts or permit them to expire, instantly raising taxes for the approximately 50 percent of people who pay federal income taxes.  There are eight kinds of taxes involved, and if they’re increased through congressional inaction another bodyblow will have been dealt to the economy.  Also, IRS will be left hanging, not knowing what tax rates will be in effect for such important things as tax withholding levels.
  • Pass a budget resolution.  This is the first time Congress has failed to do so since the Budget Act of 1974 was passed.  The resolution should have been passed months ago.
  • Pass the 12 appropriations bills required to keep the federal government operating.  At this point, none of the bills have been passed.  Instead, the government is running under a continuing resolution (CR) which permits operations under last fiscal year’s funding levels until December 3.  If they don’t pass all of the appropriations bills by that time, further CRs will be required.  And the spending levels continued are quite high, meaning that needed reductions will be delayed even further.

Will Congress get these basic tasks done?  On the issue of extending the Bush tax cuts alone they’re so divided that anything could happen.  They could extend all the current tax levels for another year or two, they could increase taxes on just those who make over $250,000 per year, or they could do nothing and raise everyone’s taxes.  That alone could eat up so much time that the budgeting and appropriations actions are left undone.

Congress will have a little time in November — after the elections and before Thanksgiving — and two or three weeks in December to finally get around to doing their job.  Could they work harder and longer?  Sure, but they likely won’t.

America is at a level of political anomie in which distrust of the state and most political leaders has reached crisis proportions.  It won’t result in revolution, armed or otherwise, as some extremists predict (and perhaps hope).  What’s going to happen is we’re going to vote many of the rascals out next month, and we should keep doing that every two years until they finally get the point.

However, anyone who thinks replacing Democrats with Republicans is going to fix the problem doesn’t understand what’s happening.  They’re all part of the same dysfunctional system, and we have to keep voting them out until they change their ways.  The Constitution is alive and sound, and the structures of government are adequate.  It’s the politicians who are broken.

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Categories: Economics, News, Politics | Comments (3) | Home

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3 Responses to “Incompetent 111th Congress”

  1. d |

    Amen,brother. I agree.

  2. Lisa |

    I wish the media would quit saying “extending the Bush tax cuts” and start referring to the probable Obama tax hikes.

  3. Tom Carter |

    Lisa, that’s exactly right. I guess we refer to “the Bush tax cuts” sometimes to define what we’re talking about, but the fact is that failing to extend them (temporarily or permanently) is a tax increase.

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