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Congress truly running on empty

As Congress spends the largest balance of 2012 running for re-election perhaps the most important question is: Why?

Seriously, what argument does any member of Congress have to suggest they should be re-elected?

In poll after poll the American people have told Congress the most important issue is the economy. And, month after month, the Congress, and particularly the Republican House, has passed bills going nowhere on any topic but the economy.

And while Congress may assume that the voters only pay attention the weeks before election a new (June 7-11, 2012) Reuters/Ipsos poll reports that 70 percent of Americans believe the 112th Congress has actually done more harm than good.

The Republican House has done more harm than good, first in creating economic uncertainty over posturing before approving a 2011 federal budget. Then, led by its Tea Party faction, the Republicans did harm by holding up the debt ceiling increase with the result directly causing a reduction in the U.S. credit rating.

Still not convinced the voters have it right on harm over good by this Congress?

This same Republican House refused to pass or even discuss the President’s jobs bill this year, while spending a good deal of its legislative energy on bills destined to go nowhere: Cut, Cap and Balance; Respect for Marriage Act; multiple anti-abortion bills; de-funding for NPR, the EPA and the ACA.

What work the Republican House did do on budgeting has required the invention of new linguistic inventions to explain the anti-middle class Ryan budget bill.

Ohio Representative Bill Johnson, a first termer, has fully bought into the new rhetoric, as noted by his voter mailing and phone hall meetings.

While the Ryan bill fixes federal support of Medicare by limiting funds available, it does so by transferring inflation and other cost increases to consumers, potentially doubling consumer health care costs by 2030.

So how does Johnson explain this transfer of costs to voters? He argues that his plan (the Ryan plan) is designed to strengthen and protect Medicare … and it is, if by strengthen he and his fellow Republicans mean making health care unaffordable for many in Medicare.

But beyond the failure of this Congress to address the priorities of the American people is the incredible failure to conduct honest debate over the issues we confront as a nation.

While Republicans argue they want to cut spending, the House passes a trillion dollar defense bill, spending $8 billion more than the Pentagon requested. The more honest truth is Republicans want to cut social safety net spending, increase corporate welfare (note the fat full farm bill) and decrease taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

And while the nation faces genuine fiscal uncertainly over the expiration or continuance of the Bush tax cuts, the extension of unemployment benefits, the end of the payroll tax holiday, and the re-appearance of the ATM ceiling costs, none of these issues have been discussed in Congress or proposed to resolve.

As for the Democrats, they cannot even seem to mount a verbal defense for what they value. If they believe in the middle class, then they should be making the argument to the voters by supporting legislation that matters instead of bills that cannot pass and speeches that result in nothing.

Democrats have lost their way. They seem to have frozen their solutions to 1970s problems, when the nation needs solutions that solve globalization to the benefit of American workers.

While the nation needs innovative research, educational training for technology and skills upgrades in many professions, Democrats seem stuck in social contract support that can only happen if our economy thrives.

If you are running for Congress this year you need to tell voters why you are not part of the problem, that you are not one of the people unwilling to legislate but fully willing to pontificate.

If you prefer ideology over effectiveness, why do we need you?


Jim Crawford is retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.