Our Opinion: Congress doing its job is nothing to celebrate

Published 9:18am Monday, December 23, 2013

Daily Herald editorial

Political pundits celebrated Wednesday as Congress came together on a federal budget deal for next year. Yet there’s little reason to celebrate: Congress did its job — halfheartedly, it seems — to compromise on a budget solution. The short-term deal avoids the crushing cuts to vital programs our legislators put in place after failing to produce deficit reform in 2011.

This is the state of American politics today. Congress is celebrated for, in effect, doing what our Founding Fathers imagined a working Congress to do: compromise. This latest budget deal doesn’t solve overarching issues like deficit spending, increased aid to education and other vital programs, and doesn’t address much tax reform.

What it does do is allow representatives and senators to kick the proverbial can down the road, all the while doing nothing to address the bipartisanship and economic struggles that have framed much of our nation’s political debate in recent years.

This is nothing to celebrate. Our system of government was designed with compromise in mind, and though we may not have always done so in U.S. history — from the 1790s struggle between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans to the Whigs and Democrats, and now between Democrats and Republicans — we have always managed to compromise in some manner on important legislation.

Not so in recent times.

Our current Congress has the lowest approval rating since Gallup polls started measuring in 1974, and our legislators have passed the fewest laws since 1947 — making it the least productive Congress in history.

This is a huge issue. We have advocated compromise to elected officials for years, even as legislators become gripped in more political gridlock at all levels as time passes. The fact that the U.S. came within hours of defaulting on its debt in October was one of the most disappointing government happenings in a generation.

In light of this, there is no reason to celebrate Congress’s ability to pass a stop-gap budget. Instead, it is cause to urge our congressional leaders to do better by working together. Our leaders are there to make decisions for more than 300 million people. It’s time they decided to focus on their jobs instead of the political scoreboard. Let us hope we can create a better, stronger budget next fall.

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