A new poll by Rasmussen Reports finds that seven percent of Americans think Congress is doing an "excellent" (one percent) or "good" (six percent) job.
Seven percent? That’s shocking. How could it possibly be so high?
While the country’s attention has been focused on Syria — and rightfully so — during these past few weeks, the U.S. government is headed toward more of these completely unnecessary fiscal crises that are becoming all too familiar.
The first would occur Sept. 30, when this current fiscal year ends. Since Congress has been unable to pass any of the appropriations bills that fund the government, it must do something by then to make sure the checks still go out. On Tuesday, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee unveiled a continuing resolution that would keep the government open for 75 days, which would mean we would have this discussion again before Dec. 15.
These quick fixes are no way to run a government. Congress should complete a budgetary process where it carefully examines income and outgo. Unfortunately, the federal government has been acting without a budget since 2009. Earlier this year, the House and Senate agreed to a "no budget, no pay" law that required each house to pass a budget in order for members of Congress to receive their paychecks. The result was that the Democratoc-controlled Senate passed its first budget in four years, but the two houses never reconciled their competing versions. In other words, members of Congress still were paid, but they never passed a budget
Now the whole thing has gotten mixed up in the "defund Obamacare" debate. Currently, Republicans are trying to find ways to fund the government without funding Obamacare. This summer, many were talking about refusing to fund the government at all unless the Affordable Care Act were repealed.
Neither President Obama nor the Senate would have agreed to that, so we would have had a government shutdown that wouldn’t have repealed Obamacare and would have backfired on Republicans. No matter what one thinks about the government, shutting it down is the wrong answer. Just like in 1995, the public would have blamed the party that’s always criticizing government, not the president who believes in government. Why would Obama shut down something he likes?
Meanwhile, the federal government is reaching yet another debt ceiling deadline. If you’ll recall from the recent past, debt ceilings are limits set by Congress as to how much debt the government can take on.
It’s a mostly symbolic gesture because the government, like your household and mine, can’t simply declare it will take on no more debt without also changing its spending habits. Failing to raise the debt ceiling accomplishes nothing but call into question the full faith and credit of the United States. The debt ceilings do call attention to the national debt, but so far they haven’t resulted in a long-term plan to get the country’s finances on track.
Actually, the debt ceiling of $16.7 trillion, or more than $50,000 for every American man, woman and child, was reached in May. But while the government has continued to spend more money that it has collected, it has avoided exceeding that limit through accounting maneuvers. Sometime in October or so, the game of credit card roulette must end.
Honestly, no business could keep its doors open for long if it behaved this way, and average people would land in jail.
Let’s go back to the Rasmussen poll. In addition to the seven percent, another 28 percent rate Congress’ performance as "fair" while the rest rate it as "poor." I don’t get "fair," but let’s give some credit where some credit is due. On Syria, members of Congress have been especially attentive to the wishes of their constituents, a majority of whom oppose a military strike. So in that respect, representative democracy has been working.
Still, who is that one percent calling Congress "excellent"?
Steve Brawner is an independent journalist in Arkansas. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevebrawner.