Is Congress dysfunctional … or working the way it’s supposed to?

An interesting take that cuts to the chase …

* * * * *

Excerpted from: The Economist:What’s gone wrong in Washington?, Feb 18, 2010

Washington seems incapable of fixing America’s deeper problems.  Certainly the system looks dysfunctional.

This, argue the critics, is what happens when

  • A mere 41 senators (in a 100-strong chamber) can filibuster a bill to death; when states like Wyoming (population: 500,000) have the same clout in the Senate as California (37m), so that senators representing less than 11% of the population can block bills.
  • Thanks to gerrymandering, many congressional seats are immune from competitive elections.
  • A tide of lobbying cash corrupts everything.

A criticism with more weight is that American government is good at solving acute problems (like averting a Depression) but less good at confronting chronic ones (like the burden of entitlements).

America’s political structure was designed to make legislation at the federal level difficult, not easy.

The founders believed that a country the size of America is best governed locally, not nationally.

The basic system works; but that is no excuse for ignoring areas where it could be reformed.

In the House the main outrage is gerrymandering. Tortuously shaped “safe” Republican and Democratic seats mean that the real battles are fought among party activists for their party’s nomination. This leads candidates to pander to extremes, and lessens the chances of bipartisan co-operation.

In the Senate the filibuster is used too often, in part because it is too easy. Senators who want to talk out a bill ought to be obliged to do just that, not rely on a simple procedural vote: voters could then see exactly who was obstructing what.

These defects and others should be corrected. But even if they are not, they do not add up to a system that is as broken as people now claim.

Full article
http://www.economist.com/opinion/displayStory.cfm?story_id=15545983&source=hptextfeature

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