Most folks, including myself, take offense whenever they see that someone’s getting something for nothing -- whether it’s an individual receiving government aid when they’re perfectly able to work or a corporation making millions of dollars in profits while accepting taxpayer-funded subsidies. The U.S. Congress is no different, and its members need to be held accountable.
The National Corn Growers Association said it best, I think, in a short statement released the day after last month’s election:
“Washington may look different come January, but fundamentally, things have not really changed. There is no sign that the gridlock of the past few years will diminish. Like many Americans, corn farmers are frustrated that their voices go unheard and so little gets done. We welcome both new and returning members of Congress back to Washington, and we urge them to set aside partisan politics and meet their obligation to conduct the nation's business."
To state it even more succinctly, get to work already and quit wasting our time and tax dollars.
By most any measure, the 113th Congress remains on track to be arguably the least productive one in modern history, according to the best available statistics on legislation that has been enacted into law. And for those who contend that it’s better to pass no laws than to compromise, that’s not how Democracy works. In more elementary terms, you can’t just take your ball and go home if you don’t like who’s on the team.
Political pundits tell us that we shouldn’t expect much from Congress and the Administration during a mid-term election year. They also say not to expect much during the months leading to a presidential election year. Which leads one to ask, when exactly can we expect something constructive out of the folks inside the Beltway?
One thing this particular Congress and others that immediately preceded it have done especially well is to make plenty of symbolic gestures. For example, do you remember the specifics of the debate that delayed the new Farm Bill?
In case you forgot, the delay was attributed to a disagreement over how drastically to cut the food stamp program, a program that now serves about one in seven Americans at a cost of approximately $80 billion each year. After much haggling back and forth, a compromise was reached that cut roughly 1 percent from the program. Republicans had hoped for far larger cuts and Democrats didn’t want to see any cuts at all.
At the time the compromise was reached, it was estimated that even the relatively small 1 percent cut would result in budget savings of $8.6 billion over 10 years, still a significant sum. But what actually happened in the way of budget savings? Several governors avoided the cuts altogether by using a loophole in the food stamp program that entitles low-income families to more food aid if they participate in a federal heating assistance program, and it’s estimated now that the actual cuts will affect only four states.
If that was worth delaying your farm bill for two years, then by all means give a hearty “atta boy” to your congressman or congresswoman. If not, tell them to get to work and quit wasting time on issues of such little consequence.
We obviously need to find ways to cut waste and fraud in government programs like food stamps, but the gestures need to be grand rather than symbolic, with significant results. And other legislation – such as the Farm Bill – should not be held hostage while our Congress postures and preens.
The folks who won their elections during this most recent cycle will crow about mandates and about how “the people” expect them to push for one agenda or another. But the overriding mandate I took from November’s results is that people simply have had enough of the squawking and bickering, and that’s it’s time – at long last – to get back to the business of governing.