Why Congress sucks

 

lobbyistsA couple hours ago, as my Twitter feed began its predictable digital outrage against Congress’ inability to pass any legal measure that might reduce the unfettered flow of guns around our psychically unstable nation, I was moved to spew forth one of my patented Twitter Rants.

Strap in. Oh, by the way – you’re partly to blame.

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You want to know why Congress is so terrible? Here’s why, 140 characters at a time:

Everybody is so indignant about Congress, but only 10% of Americans can name the Speaker of the House. You want to know why America feels like a chaotic mess? We oscillate between demanding “freedom” and demanding authority figures.

  • Don’t tell me what to do with my guns, money and healthcare! Wait! There’s gun violence, somebody do something!
  • I don’t like Big Government! We were attacked by terrorists! The government needs to invade someone’s country, and quick!
  • I don’t want Gubmint in my Medicare! However, it’s OK for the Gubmint to search my wife’s bra at the airport.
  • In the years between elections, I find policy discussion’s so boring! Hey, why is policy being run by special interests?

You know why policy is run by special interests? Because the Supreme Court told you money = speech and America said nothing. You know why gun manufacturers are buying off Congress? They make 1,000 phone calls, emails and personal visits to Congress for 1 of yours.

You know who the new ambassador to Canada is, our greatest ally and trading partner? Chicago’s partner at Goldman Sachs! Why would we appoint a banker to a diplomatic position? He raised big money for Obama in 2012! That’s how it works.

The power of special interests isn’t a conspiracy necessarily. You want to know something? Lobbyists educate new Congresspeople who are dumber than a bag of hair. My office in DC was on the 9th floor of a building chock full of lobbyists. I’ve seen the game top to bottom. Some chucklehead from Indiana’s 3rd district has the biggest used car dealership. He wants to run for Congress. He’s in Washington at lobbying shops BEFORE HE EVER RUNS. He starts sucking off the lobbyist tit before his first stump speech. He meets potential staff – introduced by lobbyists – and starts meeting donors from corporations and activist groups.

Now our man goes back to actually run in Indiana, or wherever. He wins! Hooray! But you know what? He’s a used car dealer. Do you think he spent his two years of politicking boning up on nuclear energy policy or geopolitical security? No, he was grabbing money. So our new Congressman arrives in Washington, accompanied by some of his political operatives and DC staff picked by lobbyists. He gets appointed to some committees, the sucky ones with no real power, but now he has actual work to do – about which he knows nothing.

So our new Congresscritter is on the Ag committee or Science, and now he has to vote on grazing rights and subsidies for natural gas. He doesn’t have a shit of an idea. NOW WHO CALLS HIM NEXT? YOU? Your friends from Facebook? College professors? NO, LOBBYISTS. By the way, the very second he arrives in DC, he’s immediately back on the hunt for money and really busy paying off favors to donors. So he literally has no time to study the issues. And in the door walks…his friends that hooked him up with cash to begin with! And they represent various industries. They come with actual information – slanted though it may be – about what our guy has to vote on. The lobbyists explain the stakes – the history of the policy, size of the market (beef grazing in Wyoming, whatever), and the number of jobs

You are at home watching Game of Thrones, half way through a six pack. You aren’t studying grazing rights either.

So, the vote’s on Friday. So far, our man has heard from his money guys, representatives from agribusiness…and who else?

BUT WHAT ABOUT “THEY GOOD GUYS?” The “non-profits” and do-gooder networks in DC. You give them $50 every year or so – “Organic Food USA.” The guys at Organic Food USA are paid $23,000 to live in DC. They are usually a hot mess. They *might* get a fax off to our man’s office. (By the way, the reason media covers a lot of corporate press releases verbatim is…they are written correctly! And the guys call you back!) So Organic Food USA send some dogshit pamphlet to the Congresscritter’s office, MAYBE tries to get a meeting with him. Organic Food USA decides to write an emotionally-charged email to their existing database, and updates their website. It’s easier.

You, at this same moment, are looking at pictures of old lovers on Facebook.

Now it’s the night before the vote. Our Congresscritter has received one briefing from a lobbyist and some advice from two other colleagues. The only coherent point your average Freshman Congressman has received is from people paid to sway his vote for profit. Congressguy goes to a fundraising dinner, makes phone calls to his district until 11:00pm EST, and passes out with a scotch. The next morning, all things being equal, he votes for a “strong jobs policy” on that grazing thing – and moves on.

TalkingPointsMemo and HuffPost (or RedState, who cares) cover the vote. You and your friends register your indignation in the comments.

The next big vote is next Wednesday, on subsidies for pharmacogenomic medicine, whatever the hell that is. The Chinese are our competitors. This weekend, Congresscritter is flying to Indiana to attend a sporting event and meet with donors.

You listen to NPR.

This is the deal every day in Washington DC. Is it a conspiracy? It’s a pretty open one. I’m telling you what 200,000 people know. You wonder why policy from Washington sucks ass?

  1. Money runs elections.
  2. Lobbying pays a ton.
  3. You are apathetic about policy.

BUT WAIT, NOW IT’S A YEAR DIVISIBLE BY FOUR!!! Now we spend the year listening to messages designed to flatter our egos for months. Yes, the money from lobbyists goes to market research, who ask YOU what YOU want to hear from your leaders. “Change.” “Small government.” There are shops that measure your pulse and eye twitching over the exact wording of policies. And they feed that back to you for a year.

You know that Obama didn’t like the “Change” thing in 2008, right? But that’s what the marketing said YOU wanted. So…YOU GOT IT! CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN! ALSO, UNICORNS THAT GIVE ME A RIDE TO WORK! TRANSPARENCY! NO HOMELESS PEOPLE. WORLD PEACE!

You asked for them to tell you these things. They told you. It was all financed by The Money Guys.

So now, it’s an odd number year, the new class is sworn in…and visited by their lobbyist chums, with fresh power points. Is this a conspiracy? No. Conspiracies are hidden from view. This is open for all the world to see. We like it this way. Oh, we don’t like the corrupt policies that it guarantees, but we sure don’t want to be bored by any policy discussions.

Sit around and discuss the implications of defense policy? Snore fest! Wake me when we bomb somebody! Then I’ll cheer/protest.

I believe in healthcare for all people/those who earned it! I do not, however, believe in learning about the cost of diabetes care!

So, Congress f***ed up and can’t pass a “simple” piece of legislation that will guarantee MAXIMUM primary challenges financed by NRA?

No – the problem is at the root. It’s time to look at this as a whole system. We all share blame – and responsibility.

Now what?

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  • http://twitter.com/batess Stephen Bates

    I have long stated that Congressional gerrymandering is the root cause of many of these problems. When a sitting (suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a Member of Congress. But I repeat myself) legislator fears a primary more than the general election, that’s a serious problem.

    • http://www.facebook.com/loren.lalonde Loren LaLonde

      And how did that gerrymandering happen? Because in 2010 a bunch of us voted in the guys who got to draw up the district lines. That not only resulted in a couple years of crazy insanity, but likely will help it continue for another 8 or more. Now, we have a majority House that recived a minority of votes. Not only do they not represent us, they don’t even represent who we wanted to not represent us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ae-Wehr/1322844727 Ae Wehr

    The issue, I believe, is actually a result of the institution of plebiscite voting for our congressional/senate leaders.
    As the nation became increasingly federalized, this resulted in people ignoring local politics.
    It also resulted in the removal of a major buffer against institutionalized graft:
    State government is much less susceptible to graft because of the sheer number of legislators which must be “bought” to sway policy nation-wide and the fact that they are much closer to their constituents on local issues.
    I posit that we were better off when our national legislators were appointed by the state legislatures because of this.

    • http://www.ericgarland.co ericgarland

      There’s a major tension between running a place (city, province) and maintaining an empire. Anytime you have people elected from a place but trying to keep some huge game going, things get silly. We’re in silly.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ae-Wehr/1322844727 Ae Wehr

        Of course, but this underlines my point.

        Those responsible for running local affairs in the state-houses are more likely to put people into national office who will produce a coherent, beneficial, and less invasive governmental structure.

        In addition to the lower likelihood of graft’s influance (the sheer number of politicians voting in each state house and the much smaller impact of money on local elections), you have a vested interest in the state houses of electing people less likely to trample states rights without good reason, and finally the members of the state-house are much better informed of the pressing needs of local agencies and initiatives.

        The result would be a federal legislature (at least the senate) composed of much more moderate people than we see today, pursuing productive federal policies aimed at empowering and coordinating the efforts of local government, and thereby local citizenry.

        In such an environment, I could easily see things such things on the docket as:
        1 – an effort to overturn citizens united
        2 – a nationalized sales-tax for internet transactions to remove the advantage of online retailers
        3 – a renewed and serious debate as to marijuana and our drug laws, which are bleeding state prison budgets dry.

  • Gilbo

    Yeah that all sounds about right. Apathy is everywhere in big cities as people spend most of their time just trying to get by. I’ve noticed small mainland communities and small island communities (even with multiple towns) tend to be more politically active. Oh and I’m specifically talking about my region, Auckland and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf.