Fixing Congress

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12 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak says:

    I’m not sure about this. One of the reasons, a big one i think, for Congress to do less legislating is they want to avoid the big contentious issues. All the R’s and some D’s would have been happy to do nothing about HCR for the last 6 years except for make a few speeches. Immigration, similar situation except Congress has done nothing. Fixing SS….nothing at all. Making speeches, yakking on the news and flapping their gums about NEA grants or other financially tiny matters is so much easier than standing up loudly for how to fix a major issue, risking their butts and actually proposing solutions since that is, like you know, hard.Report

  2. Avatar Roger says:

    What are we assuming it is that they should be doing (agreed goals)?

    Why do we assume they are qualified to do it (that they could succeed at it if they tried)?

    Why do we assume they are benevolent and are acting for our interests rather than their own (or to be generous that our interests are properly aligned)?

    Why do we assume that even if we do agree what they should be doing, that we do agree they are capable, that we do agree they are benevolent that they are better at accomplishing these than alternative sources of coordination?

    Don’t get me wrong, I am sure we can agree there are some things they can do and should do and would be good at doing compared to alternatives.

    In general my thought is that they should be working to get out of the way by endorsing robust yet concise rules and institutions which allow the rest of us to supply our own goals, to solve them cooperatively via experimentation and gradual learning.

    Congress has long since lost sight of how it can add value. As such it probably isn’t adding much value, and may be actively trying to do things which will will perversely cause more harm than good.

    They need a paradigm shift…. A fundamental course correction. I am not holding my breath. The question then becomes how successful future generations can be with this weight dragging them down. Time will tell.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Roger says:

      We damn well don’t assume they’re acting in our interests. However, I say the same thing about the real estate agent,and people still pay them to do their jobs. Awareness of a conflict of interest is not an excuse for walking away from the conversation [you can, of course, say that “congress making more laws is bad”… but that’s a totally different topic.]

      What congress ought to be giving the Executive Branch, at minimum, is a window into people’s struggles… and perhaps developing new ideas.Report

  3. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I’d oppose the idea of a hard limit requiring Congress to recess on any particular date. It creates too much opportunity for those same bored children to engage in gamesmanship with the few important things they actually do. Also, a Congress in recess leaves most day today decision-making overtly in the hands of the president. We have Congress in session for long periods of time at least in part to serve as a check against executive overreach. (Or so the theory goes. In practice? YMMV.)

    Congressional committees actually do convene in places throughout the country, not just on Capitol Hill. Certainly, we could have more of this, with the expectation that it increases citizen involvement. That does not particularly need to involve moving the capital from Washington to some other location. As you note, this is the age of the Internet so it matters less where most of the principal bureaucracies are located.Report

  4. Avatar Lyle says:

    Actually what is proposed is done by a number of state legislatures. They meet for a limited period and if need be the governor calls special sessions for defined purposes. It does work better but even there the first part of the session very little is accomplished One would need deadlines such as the budget must be passed by the first of may, and appropriation bills passed by june 15 etc.Report

  5. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I am largely with Burt and Greginak.

    I am not entirely sure that many people in Congress want to fix big problems especially because we are entering an entrenched period of hyperpartisanship (or more likely returning) to one. We still have a party whose belief is that the Federal Government should do as little as possible and people who want a paradigm shift to make the people believe so as well.Report

    • Partisanship matters, but I’m arguing that even without that it’s harder for Congress to do big things because there are so few big things that the federal government is not already deeply involved in. Major changes in big federal programs are harder than doing something big from scratch, so long as sizable majorities agree something needs to be done. I’ve argued before that the Dems moved six or so years too soon on health care finance reform. By 2016, the insurance company “offenses” would have gotten more egregious, more employers would have dropped full-sized group plan benefits, and it would have been feasible to do something considerably simpler than what we got (without the panic mode stuff that happened in the Senate). I firmly believe that in 2017, even if the Republicans were to win a House majority, a 60-seat Senate majority, and the White House, that they will find it hard to do more than tinker around the edges — too many large interests will work hard to block big changes. Eg, states that have not yet accepted the Medicaid expansion are going to find themselves under enormous pressure to do so from their hospital associations in the next two years.

      The argument is that Congress has succeeded in doing one of the things that I was often trying to accomplish in my tech jobs — make their job a whole lot smaller.Report

  6. Avatar James Hanley says:

    The problem isn’t so much with Congress, I think, as with the electorate. Or more specifically, the way we’ve structured the electoral structure of the electorate.

    Or put this way, your argument assumes the primary job of Congress is to govern, but I’d say the primary job of Congress is to get re-elected, and so everything else follows from how we structure that electoral process.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to James Hanley says:

      Yup. And we’re working on changing that.Report

    • I suppose I’m making it easier for them to do that. Stuck in Washington for six months doing the dull second job, then free for six months to concentrate on fund raising, constituent service, and all those other things that result in the “Congress has an approval rating of 20%, but individual Congress critters have a rating of 80% in their home districts.” Still, I regard 100 bored Congress critters in Washington as much more dangerous to good governance happening than 100 bored Congress critters scattered around the country.Report