Politics has become exceedingly divisive with troubling outcomes. America’s 323 million citizens are concerned.
Congress has had 10 months to address a multitude of key issues facing this country. They include infrastructure repair, tax reform, farm bill, health care reform, DACA, immigration reform, FY 2018 budget, $20T federal deficit, international trade agreements, civil rights protection, women’s inequality, energy grid fortification, foreign policy, cybersecurity and criminal justice reform.
Not one of these issues has been resolved. Our 535 legislators have come up empty handed and failed us miserably. The current 10 percent Congressional approval rating, lowest since 1974, is well deserved.
The root of our legislators’ abysmal performance is disturbing and self-evident.
First, Congress only works 133 days a year versus the typical American’s 240 days. Imagine working 55 percent of the time, receiving $174,000 as salary (plus health care and retirement benefits), getting 13 weeks of “recess,” accomplish little to nothing and not get fired.
Our 535 legislators insist they must get back home and meet with their constituents while holding fund raisers to get reelected. However, they have multiple full-time staff members in their district to handle constituent problems. Plus, if the legislators are worth-their-salt they won’t have to hold fund raisers as their constituents will know they are working hard to represent the people and will freely give of their hard-earned savings to keep the getting-the-job-done politicians in office.
A second problem is related to how our legislators spend their 2-3 days per week while in D.C. 60 Minutes TV conducted a hidden camera operation and obtained testimony from Emeritus Rep. David Jolly (R-FL) that six hours per day is devoted to raising money for reelection. Party officials told Jolly he needed to raise $18,000 a day and Jolly admitted “members of Congress spend too much time raising money and not enough time doing their job.”
The third problem is our legislators voluntarily serve on 20 to 30 of the nearly 230 different caucuses, everything from the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus to the Congressional Shellfish Caucus and Friends of Finland Caucus.
This caucus involvement is above and beyond legislators serving on several of the 20 House standing committees, 16 Senate standing committees, four joint committees and other committees of importance (e.g., aging, ethics, intelligence, etc.). Citizens concur focusing on legislation to improve America should have priority over caucus attendance and fund raising.
The fourth problem in D.C. is realizing our political parties have evolved into five different factions per party. GOP legislators are now split into Christian Right Republicans, Libertarian Republicans, Main Street Business Republicans, Neoconservative Republicans and Populist Authoritarian Nationalist Republicans (often referred as Donald Trump-Steve Bannon-Laura Ingraham Republicans). The Democratic Party wings include Conservative Democrats, Centrist Democrats, Liberal Democrats, Libertarian Democrats and Progressive Democrats.
If you tie having splintered political parties that can’t get along with their peers of the same basic ideological persuasion, devoting time to dozens of the 230 voluntary caucus groups and dozens of standing committees and then fund raising six hours per day during the 2-3 days per week while in DC, we’ve got a significant problem.
The solution is simple: 1) work five days a week in D.C., 2) take 10 days of vacation like the average American you represent, 3) spend six hours per day on legislation versus fund-raising and caucus attendance and 4) work in a bipartisan manner within your own party and across-the-aisle to get-the-job done.
Dear Congress: If you can’t accommodate these four requests, we’ll replace you with a mature and responsible citizen who cares more about the people than the party and getting re-elected. This party before country behavior has gone on far too long.
Steve Corbin is Emeritus Professor of Marketing, University of Northern Iowa, and a 1966 graduate of Nevada High School.