How To Fix Congress | Congress 2

This week’s video lays out how easy it would be to fix Congress. This prompts a question though. If it’s so easy, why hasn’t it happened yet? I think the answer is pretty simple. Everybody hates Congress. It’s a vicious cycle we’re in. Congress has always been corrupt. Over the past half century or so, it hasn’t been very good at getting things done either. The general uselessness of Congress makes people angry. So they take funding away from it, and Congress gets even more useless. Nobody wants to stand up for Congress because it’s an unpopular position. Which makes it a perfect topic for this YouTube Channel.

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Video Transcript after the jump…

Hey There. Last Time I talked about the way the US Congress has been starved of money and staff. This is dumb no matter what your priorities are. If you like government you want Congress to be able to make it better. If you hate government you want Congress to have the resources it needs to figure out what to cut. We can see the consequences of our weak and dumb congress in the disaster that is today’s do-nothing Republican Congress.

First and foremost. This would be very, very cheap to do. For much less than the price of a single aircraft carrier we could have a Congress that is twice as effective as it is today. We could pay experienced staffers to make careers in the Congress rather than at lobbying firms. That’s never going to happen, but we can do great things for a lot less. For the cost of a single fighter jet we could supercharge the Congressional Research Service, the Congressional think tank. For the cost of another fighter jet we could give each congressperson four more dedicated staff to work exclusively on their chosen policy area.

If we’re going to have a Congress that works, it’s absolutely vital that it have its own sources of expertise. Today Congress makes its decisions using information from lobbyists, or from the governmental agencies that they are supposed to be overseeing. Shockingly all that the lobbyists and government agencies want is more money for their chosen special interests. So that’s what we get with the modern congress, on both sides of the aisle.

Let’s look a little closer at the current problem by looking at two hypothetical senators.

Say you’re a Republican Senator who is super dedicated to sorting out our insane tax code, and putting more money in your constituent’s pockets where it belongs. In 2015 the average senator had 39 staffers to figure out how to make that happen. But our Senator doesn’t really have that many staff. First off an average of 47% of that staff is based back in his home state, dealing with constituents and the needs of his state’s government. So we’re down to 21. There are about a million things that a senator is called on to do for his constituents. He and his staff have got to do tours, answer letters, field phone calls and answer questions. There’s also everything else the Senator is called to vote on and understand outside of his chosen issue. And of course there’s the eternal fund-raising and campaign whirl. Oh and he has to manage the media. So let’s say realistically that our Senator can afford to dedicate two or three people to looking at cutting taxes full time. Somehow they’ve got to navigate the IRS, the Budget, thousands of pages of tax regulations, and the cadres of lobbyists that constantly besiege them.

Looked at this way, is it at all surprising that the Republicans have failed to put together a worthwhile tax cut? Let’s switch over to a hypothetical senator on the other side.

Say you’re a Democratic Senator who is super dedicated to reining in those big banks, and crafting meaningful financial reform that can protect us from another crisis. She’s got all the same constraints that our hypothetical Republican Senator has. Let’s take a brief look at what your two or three staff have to deal with. Well they’ve got to deal with the Security and Exchange Commission, our main financial regulator. There are also a bunch of other agencies that have a hand in financial regulation. Each of these agencies produce thousands of pages of regulations. These courageous staffers have to understand all that. They also need to manage the priorities of the industries they want to regulate. If they had their own sources of information then maybe they’d know what to do. But they don’t. They have to deal with what the agencies think are important, or what the big banks lobbyists want them to know. These well-meaning staffers end up producing boondoggles like Dodd Frank that do absolutely everything other than what they were designed to do. Of course Congress is a joke.

Congress people often manage to look stupid, because they quite literally have no idea what’s going on. Their solutions are big and dumb, because they have no way to know the actual details that make the difference. When we see these folks talking, we shouldn’t be filled with hate. We should be filled with Pity. The situation they’re in is quite literally Kafkaesque. It’s a living nightmare. We put them in that situation. We chose to make Congress weak and dumb.

It is vitally important that we make congress stronger. It would be cheap to do. For the price of a jet fighter or two we can rescue our congresspeople from ridiculousness. We need a strong Congress. It was what the Founding Fathers wanted, and it’s what all US citizens should want as well.

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