Lawmakers are falsely named

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 1, 2013

In general, much of the American public could care less what goes on in Washington, D.C. — until it starts to impact their wallets and pocketbooks.

Sure, some citizens pay attention to the talking heads on the TV news and try to stay somewhat informed about what the president and Congress is doing, not too difficult a task in recent years.

But, for the most part, the average Joe doesn’t know or care. Surveys have shown that many citizens can recall the last five winners of American Idol or name nearly every starting player for their favorite sports team but couldn’t tell you the names of the speaker of the house or the secretary of state.

I’m guilty as well, often hyper-focused on what is going on here in Lawrence County and the Tri-State.

With the seemingly constant talks of sequesters, debt ceilings, government shutdowns and struggling economy, even the issues that are important begin to get ignored because the politicians have “cried wolf” way too many times.

But these issues are real “lupines” and the American public has to stop being sheep.

Even those who are apathetic about the federal government are starting to stand up and take notice of what could very easily be the least productive Congress in U.S. history.

The 113th version of the bicameral body — the group that took office in January 2013 — has raised the bar when it comes to dysfunction and partisanship, almost completely abandoning any pretense or semblance of progress.

As of early August, when the lawmakers — exhausted from doing nothing — recessed, this Congress had passed a whopping 22 laws, the lowest total in that time frame since we started counting 65 years ago. This was even worse than the 112th version that passed about 28 laws in the same span.

Should we should judge this Congress on quality over quantity? Well, maybe not so much.

There wasn’t one really substantial piece of new legislation in the lot, if you take away the disaster relief for Hurricane Sandy and the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act.

They renamed a bridge, kicked the financial can down the road, awarded some medals, decided seasonal flu vaccines are taxable and a bunch of other things that will significantly impact the average American from about now until … never.

Some people say we are better off if Congress isn’t passing any laws. That may be true when the economy is booming and Americans are feeling good about the direction the country is headed.

That certainly isn’t the case now. Most Americans feel we are balancing precariously on a precipice caused by one party or the other.

The reality is they may all be right, as both parties are equally to blame and should be embarrassed.

Should we have high hopes as Congress returns from recess — an apt description if I have ever heard one — that things will change and the many looming crises will be handled? Probably not.

Even though the House has a Republican majority and the Senate a Democrat one, that doesn’t, in and of itself, mean nothing can be accomplished. In the past, both parties have worked together to move our country forward.

Now there is virtually no cooperation or compromise. When will this change? Maybe when the American citizens decide to reengage in the process.

A few years ago, the rallying cry for many Americans was that we should vote out all incumbents and start over. It sounded ludicrous to me at the time because you lose all your experience. Now? I’m not so sure it is a bad idea.

We need our lawmakers to actually make laws that benefit us as citizens.

Recess is over. Get to work.


Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCaldwell_IT.