When I was in high school I wrote my sole letter to the New York Times. It was published in the Sunday Edition. It was a sarcastic piece about how inept the U.S. Congress was. If I only knew.
I assume like many Americans of all different political persuasions I border between embarassment and disgust when I think of our Congress. Intuitively I recognize it is just a business and that is all about themselves and not about us. Those few who had a glimmer of statespersonship left, have left. Even crisis management is impossible. If the Constitution permitted them to be temp workers, who could only assemble for 5 days at the end of the year, we could start reducing the deficit.
Watching this unfold you knew the Majority Leader of the House had to protect his leadership position, which I believe is up for a vote this week. He was not going to sign onto a tax increase. I do think the Majority Leader tried and this might have been resolved earlier if he could control his members, but he can’t.
Technically we have gone over the cliff and taxes have risen. Now the House can act as if they are reducing taxes that automatically went up knowing the rise still has not been implemented. The Senate Republicans with business breathing down their neck and with the real risk to the status of U.S. currency in international trade on the line, agreed to the foregone conclusion that about $400,000 would be the income cut-off. They could have reached this decision a few weeks ago, without the drama, and perhaps give the government, business and individual taxpayers time to plan and implement changes. How much has their delay and inefficiency cost us?
Now, the Senate Republicans can lay the potential blame on their Republican bretheren in the House who cost them the Presidential election and control of Congress. They will seem responsible, knowing that deficit reduction will be fought over in a couple of months when the Federal budget will again be held hostage. It is nice to have something to look forward to.
What is great about last minute deals is that it is a lobbyist dream. No matter your political preference, influence payback is built-in. Unfortunately, it is built-in at the State level, where districts have been gerrymandered so that most seats are safe seats and Congresspeople intent on re-election pander to the party that happens to control that district. The National parties like it this way, so long as they have the benefit. To change Congress, the way Congressional Districts are formulated needs to change. It would be better if done by computer with the goal that as many seats a possible would be heavily contested. Then the U.S. voter would actually have a choice and a meaningful vote. They might even be listened to instead of lobbyists.
This is a vision, the same as the likelihood of doing away with the Senate cloture rule that effectively requires a 60 vote majority for any meaningful legislation. The courts have not found the rule unconstitutional although it effectively distorts the power in the Senate by giving more weight to the more rural states (of which there are more of). The Senate was originally designed to benefit the rural states by giving each state two senators regardless of their population. The Senate rule effectively goes beyond the intent of the Constitution by creating this super-majority unbalance. The courts are right that it is not unconstitutional, but it is form over substance.
Finally, I have heard, but I am not sure, that buried in this legislation there is a pay raise for the members of Congress. I assume that it is for all Federal employees, but clearly the deficit hawks and the liberals each have no shame by accepting it for themselves given their performance.