A dysfunctional family is one that is perennially in chaos. Nothing ever gets done; no issue is ever solved; nothing is ever accomplished. A dysfunctional government works or doesn’t work on the same basis. Its lawmakers are incapable of accomplishing anything, at least anything that the nation really needs.
Is that the situation that exists in Washington, D.C.? The answer to that question is obviously, yes. But is the answer that simple? Are both political parties equally responsible or is the true villain just one of the particular political parties?
Toward the end of the last year of the reign of George W. Bush as President of the United States the economy collapsed. Because of the activities of the major banks the country was facing a catastrophe greater than that of 1929. Bush and his Secretary of the Treasury, Paulson, did an emergency bank bailout of the big Financial Institutions whose greed and irresponsibility had caused the situation.
In 2008 Barak Obama was elected President on a platform of: “It’s Time for a Change.” Through the use of both Fiscal and Monetary policy he was able to avert a major breakdown of the economy. In addition he bailed out the auto industry. The country had a recession with major unemployment but it never reached a real depression. The Obama Administration also passed a universal Affordable Health Care Bill, which, had been initially suggested by the Horizon Institute, a Conservative Republican Think Tank and earlier put into operation in the State of Massachusetts by a Republican governor, Mitt Romney.
In the 2010 Midterm Election the Republicans under Tea Party leadership became the majority party in the House of Representatives. Apparently there hadn’t been enough “change” during President Obama’s first two years in office!
The Republican caucus in both Houses of Congress had earlier decided the Obama would be a one term president. Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader in the Senate had announced this publically. They would support nothing that President Obama proposed. In fact, they would oppose everything he would favor. Government functionality would cease. From 2011 on the House of Representatives would not pass any bill that supported any program that Obama or the Democrats favored and that they would oppose any bill that had been passed during his first two years in office.
The House repealed Affordable Health Care (Obama Care) over forty times. The repeals went nowhere because the Senate had a Democratic majority and the majority leader would not take up the bill which was already law.
In 2011 President Obama came out with a plan to put America back to work by both extending and modernizing the infrastructure of the United States. This would probably have reduced unemployment to about 3 1/2 percent, increased the GDP significantly, and substantially increased the tax base of both the Federal Government and the states. The Republican majority and the Speaker of the House of Representatives completely ignored these plans. The House of Representatives from 2011 on has done absolutely nothing in any way to create jobs for the unemployed. By their actions they have sought to reduce government employment and have actually added to the unemployment problem.
In 2012 the House of Representatives met in formal session 125 days, in 2013 it was 121 days, and in 2014 it will be for 120 days. Some Republican legislator made a comment about what will they do in all that time. The members of Congress receive 174 thousand dollars a year, plus an office and a fully paid staff. The get an allowance for an office in their home districts. I would love to work 120 days out of 365 for that pay and do as much as the House Republican legislators!
In 2013, late at night, the Republicans changed the rules in the House of Representatives so that only bills favored by the majority party could be brought up for a debate or vote on the floor of the House. If a bill favored by the Democrats and a small number of Republicans came up, the Speaker of the House did not have to call for a vote on that bill, even if the majority favored it. The only bills that needed to be brought up were those favored by the majority of the Republicans in the House.
In the Senate the Republican minority can filibuster both bills and Presidential appointments of judgeships and appointments of assorted department heads. The position of the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms was only recently filled after being vacant for six to eight years. The NRA wanted this job left vacant. The post was filled after Harry Reed, the majority leader, threatened to change the rules and end filibustering most Presidential appointments.
In mid-November, over the issue of three judgeships, in which the Republicans refused to allow a vote to be taken because they did not want Obama to fill three vacancies in the second highest court in the U.S., the Senate by a simple majority changed the rules and disallowed filibustering in most presidential appointments.
In 2012 the closest the Republicans came to a compromise was the Sequester, which automatically dropped government spending across the board on all levels except Congressional salaries that automatically rose every year. These, cut down military spending and innumerable entitlement programs for the poor: meals on wheels and infant nutrition to name only two. In 2013 they shut down the government, refused to raise the debt ceiling, and cost the country about 24 billion dollars and around 250,000 jobs. If they had had their way and gotten everything they wanted the country would currently be in a deep depression with unemployment up well over 25 percent. Their version of running the government is not only to not spend money but also to massively reduce the size of the Federal Government.
Even though the public cast 1.4 million more votes for the House Democrats in 2012, by gerrymandering in the census year, 2010, the Republicans still got a majority in the House. The country will need an overwhelming majority in 2014 to beat them.
There is a note of irony that helps explain this dysfunction. Since the Republicans have determined to oppose everything that President Obama supports they have gone against some policies that initially were their own. The reason for this, as we have seen, was to make Obama a one term president. When they failed in 2012 they still adhered to these policies.
Affordable Health Care will help keep a number of people alive who would otherwise have died earlier because they could not afford to see a doctor until it was an emergency. Many children will now get prenatal care. The insurance companies, even with more restrictions on what they can do, will get a tremendous increase in business. Yet the Republicans continue to denounce this law using mostly general platitudes. They offer nothing except the argument that it’s no good, that it will harm the society and kill jobs.
We are probably the only industrial nation in the world today that doesn’t have universal medical care for its citizens. Our original system of medical care is faulty, inefficient, and overly expensive. The Republicans offer no alternative except that Obama Care is no good. Really spiteful reasoning!
We can again ask ourselves: Why is Congress dysfunctional? The answer is because of Congressional Republican acts or lack of any action since 2011 when they gained control of the House of Representatives. The 2014 Midterm Election will determine what direction this country takes. If the Republicans retain the majority in the House we can look forward to two more years of economic disaster. The American People will have to choose in 2014. Hopefully the majority will understand their choices. Unfortunately we have to wait another year before there’s any hope of a functioning government.