Why Congress is a national joke

Congressional approval ratings are about as low as they can get, about 11% according to a recent CNN/ORC International poll, and there is little mystery as to why. From a U.S. Senate that refuses to adopt a budget, to the liberal vilification of U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat now labeled as a progressive traitor for partnering on entitlement reform with Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, the American public is in a state of deep agitation with these high-priced bellhops.

The main source of their frustration is that we elect people to Congress to solve problems, not play politics while the problems unfold before our eyes. The left-wing vitriol toward Sen. Wyden is a prime example. The good senator’s record is every bit as progressive as that of U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin, but you would not know that in the salons of the left, where Wyden has been called, among other things, a useful idiot for conservatives.

Actually, it’s the head-in-the-sand posture of most congressional liberals that will do conservative politicians a favor this fall. It’s early, but my current hunch is that President Obama will win a narrow re-election, not because the public has contraception on the brain (good grief!), but because the economy is recovering just enough for people to stick with him for a second term.

However, given the lack of seriousness among congressional Democrats (and sadly, the President, too) over the debt crisis we’re heading toward, they also will hedge their bets and keep the GOP in control of the House of Representatives and put them back in charge of the do-nothing Senate.

In terms of fiscal sanity, such ticket splitting served us well in the late 1990s, when voters returned Bill Clinton to the Oval Office, but balanced that with Republican majorities in Congress. That division of power made both parties play budget ball within the 30-yard lines, while a historic economic driver – information technology – resulted in a surge of tax revenue to the government. The deficit therefore was tackled from two angles, spending discipline and robust economic growth.

In terms of tackling our financial difficulties, it’s become painfully clear that the current composition in Congress will get us nowhere. I’ll give House Republicans credit for trying, as they are about to unveil yet another budget that attempts to defuse the debt bomb, but the Democrat-controlled Senate is where solutions go to die.

The outnumbered Sen. Wyden has convinced Paul Ryan to modify his Medicare reform plan, which is part of the Wisconsin congressman’s “Roadmap to America’s Future,” to garner more bipartisan support. One would think that in their anxiety to stick it to the rich, liberals would latch on to the part of the Ryan-Wyden plan that calls for reducing Medicare benefits to the wealthiest citizens, who obviously can afford to pay for their own health insurance coverage, even after retirement.

But no, congressional Democrats intend to use an earnest proposal to launch another “Medi-scare” campaign, apparently hoping the public won’t notice that in supporting ObamaCare, they actually voted to whack $500 billion from Medicare over the next 10 years. That’s not a trivial amount, that’s a Soprano-style whacking.

It also should be hard for them to assail Ryan-Wyden’s call for more private-sector involvement, since 1) traditional Medicare would remain the core of the program; 2) many seniors already rely on private coverage in the form of Medicare Advantage and Medigap; and 3) anyone who truly wants to save the Medicare program understands that some private-sector choice (i.e., market competition among providers) is needed to hold down costs.

Instead of decrying problem-solvers like Wyden because he’s committed the cardinal sin of co-authoring a solution – not the same, tired political masturbation that most prefer – why not join him and demonstrate to voters that you’re really one of the grown-ups in the room?

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