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Grading Congress
Scripps Howard News Service


July 28, 2010

A Gallup poll reveals that only 11 percent of Americans have a great deal of confidence in Congress, and though it's the lowest ranking ever, one wonders what malady afflicts the yea-sayers. Might a review of reality correct their misperceptions?

To do the task justice would require at least as many pages as some of the bills Congress passes, but that itself is a place to start -- mention of a debt-stimulating stimulus bill over 1,000 pages long, of a topsy-turvy health-care remake over 2,000 pages long and of a recent financial-regulation mishmash also over 2,000 pages long.

Members of Congress maybe have some study-guide notion of what's in these bills, but no grasp of all the possible catastrophes hidden in multiple unread clauses. Passing them is therefore akin to the blindfolded racing of a bus down a busy highway. The public -- the passengers -- knows even less, of course, and has to guess at what might happen to it.

jpg Party Animals

Party Animals
David Fitzsimmons, The Arizona Star
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

At least some of the devilish details do emerge in time, and so you learn that even if an $862 billion stimulus was defensible in theory, the political handouts got out of hand, virtually ensuring any assault on the recession would be feathery at best.

The health bill, it turns out after inspection by various nonpartisan groups since its enactment, was pretty much a fraud from beginning to end. It's going to control health costs? Just the opposite, and here is more bad news -- this fiercely expensive entitlement comes on top of old entitlements -- Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- that already threaten to help create fiscal chaos and uncontrollable debt in not so many more years.

Our economy is hugely at risk, and Congress did this to us. Every half-alert Washington denizen has known about the entitlement risk for many years now, but most members of Congress have been afraid to take on the restructuring that's necessary to keep the programs and economy intact. Whenever anyone has made so bold as to suggest a workable solution, it has been demagogue time, time to suggest a willingness to make old people eat dog food when nothing of the sort was remotely possible.

The flimflam has been little short of malevolent, considering the widespread hurt that forestalled fixes could conceivably entail.

jpg Obstructing Jobless Benefits

Obstructing Jobless Benefits
Nate Beeler, The Washington Examiner
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

So what are we going to do about this fine mess Congress has gotten us into? Look to Congress to get us out of it? Of course not. So worried are Democrats about what the five-year numbers will show, we aren't even going to get the usual budget plan this year, and President Barack Obama has so little faith in Congress tackling the issue that he is looking instead to a commission to come up with answers.

At the same time, of course, these pretend protectors act as if they are oh, so vigilant on the citizenry's behalf. Why look at them when they conduct televised hearings in their mucho Mussolini style, so stern, so mean, so ludicrously pompous. You might never guess they did their bit to give us the recession and the BP oil spill. Congress, you know, didn't just abide dangerous financial practices by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It encouraged them. And its oversight of the Minerals Management Service in charge of drilling permits was practically nonexistent.

There are some really, truly fine members of the House and Senate, to be sure, but then there are those who are corrupt to the point of ethics-panel action and many more whose corruption is of the dirty-deal-but-legal kind. There's the campaign-trail complaint Washington is broken by those who are breaking it. There's the disregard for the Constitution and traditional rules. There's the ignorance and lousy leadership. There is the irresponsibility, the cowardice, the egotism, the hubris, the willingness to put self above the common good not just every now and then, but as a way of life.

Come on, you 11 percent. Wake up.



Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado.
He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)

Distributed to subscribers for publication by
Scripps Howard News Service,

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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

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