Remember when Congress used to occasionally accomplish things?
Once upon a time, U.S. House of Representatives members like Robert LaFollette, Sam Rayburn, John McCormick, Everett Dirksen, Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson, Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, Gerald Ford, Clarence Miller, and Ted Strickland all managed to set aside party differences and petty posturing and come together to enact meaningful legislation for the good of their constituents and the good of the nation. From these collaborations came trust-busting, the Pure Food and Drug Act, and women's suffrage in the early 1900s; the Social Security Act, Hoover Dam, and the TVA in the 1930s; the war effort and the G.I. Bill in the 1940s; the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s; minimum wage laws, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act in the 1960s; Medicare in the 1970s; and welfare reform in the 1990s.
That was before the anarchists started running the show in 2011. The previous 112th Congress (elected in 2010) passed 46 bills (19.2 percent of all legislation during that period) naming post offices (meanwhile, working behind the scenes to dismantle the USPS). They passed six bills issuing commemorative coins. As of late July, 2013, they voted for the 40th time to "repeal" Obamacare - a totally useless and purely symbolic gesture that hasn't a snowball-in-the-Sahara's chance of being passed by the Senate or being signed by the current president - before the benefits of that law kick in to help millions of previously-uninsured Americans. They've participated in a number of phony "witch-hunting" exercises at the behest of Joe McCarthy wannabe, Darrell Issa. They've pontificated endlessly in favor of the failed "trickle-down economics ideology that proposed the silly notion that prosperity for all only happens when the super-rich pay fewer taxes. Meanwhile, they've "passed-over" any and all chances of enacting meaningful immigration reform, raising the minimum-wage, issuing small-business loans, improving education, repairing damaged infrastructure, or passing real job-creating legislation. And now they're on vacation - again!
So how is 6th District Congressman Bill Johnson spending his summer vacation? In imitation of Texas Tea-Party colleagues like Ted Cruz and Louie Gohmert, he's running around the district holding faux "town meetings" that seem more like auditions for "FOX and Friends" than venues for productive action. The topics "discussed" at these meetings are selected in advance by Bill's entourage and represent only the faux issues that Bill's anarchist base are obsessed about. One of these is "Common Core," an innocuous program for setting basic nationwide educational standards that has already been endorsed by many state governors and school officials.The neo-Bircher crowd and high-rolling backers of high-priced charter schools want to depict this program as "Commie Core," so they can strip even more money from the financially-strapped public-education system and shovel it into private coffers. A noted opponent of "Common Core" was Tony Bennett (not the iconic singer) the Florida Secretary of Education who recently resigned after it was discovered that, when he served as education chief in Indiana, he altered evaluation scores to help a charter school whose owner had contributed big bucks to tea-party Republicans. Meanwhile, where are those "jobs"?
In the last tally (July, 2013), the "approval" rating for the 113th Congress was somewhere around 10 percent. It has been judged as the "most nonproductive" Congress since the infamous "Do-nothing Congress" of 1947. If these folks worked at a fast food restaurant, they'd be fired on the spot!
Fred O'Neill lives in Marietta.