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America: Kick out the Jams!

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Well, the results are in, and this "Do-Nothing" Congress passed only 90 bills last year, a modern-era low. Of the 90, three were to re-appoint Regents to the Smithsonian Institution, 16 to name federal buildings in honor of someone, and many of the rest were simple "housekeeping" bills to extend funding on programs already in existence.

Over the last year, virtually every attempt to ease the effects of this recession -- every attempt to make life easier for the 99 percent of us Americans on the bottom -- has been blocked by Congressional Republicans responding to their "Prime Directive" -- Make President Obama look bad in order to prevent his re-election.

Last week's bipartisan Congressional compromise, extending the payroll tax cuts -- in effect, a 2% raise for 160 million American workers -- might be seen as a faint glimmer of hope that partisan politics have finally given way to pragmatism in Washington. Since this is an election year, maybe both parties in Congress will actually get along, at least long enough to fool us into reelecting them, and maybe -- just maybe -- long-delayed help will come for an America suffering the worst economic setback since the 1930's.  

Americans are universally fed up with the childish behavior that has stalled any and every attempt to move our economy forward. A CBS News/New York Times poll, and a Gallup poll, both taken earlier this month, showed a mere 10% approval rating for Congress. This is the lowest approval rating in Gallup's history -- going back to 1974. The previous historic low was 11%, two months ago. The obvious question is, "How could ANYONE approve of this behavior?"        

The Republicans have used their "Do-Nothing" game plan before. In 1948, Republican majorities in both the House and Senate tried to get rid of Democratic President Harry Truman by making him look like an ineffective leader. Truman, who became president when Franklin Roosevelt died, labeled this 80th Congress the "Do-Nothing Congress."

Actually, Truman's Congress passed far more significant legislation than today's "Less-Than-Do-Nothing" 112th Congress. In a speech at the Democratic convention in July, 1948, Truman highlighted the proposals stated in the Republican convention's platform just a couple weeks earlier:

"Now listen! This is equally bad, and as cynical. The Republican platform comes out for slum clearance and low-rental housing. I have been trying to get them to pass that housing bill ever since they met the first time, and it is still resting in the Rules Committee, that bill. The Republican platform favors educational opportunity and promotion of education. I have been trying to get Congress to do something about that ever since they came there, and that bill is at rest in the House of Representatives. The Republican platform is for extending and increasing social security benefits. Think of that! Increasing social security benefits! Yet when they had the opportunity, they took 750,000 off the social security rolls! I wonder if they think they can fool the people of the United States with such poppycock as that!"

After the convention, Truman called Congress back into session hoping the Republicans would at least act on their own platform proposals. Congress again did nothing and adjourned for the year on August 7. Truman took his outrage, and his plain-talking truth, directly to the people. That November, American voters, disgusted with Republican obstructionism, kicked out the jams. Truman was elected president and the Democrats won huge majorities in both the House and Senate of the new, 81st Congress.

It's time again, America: Kick out the Jams!  

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Mike Kirchubel writes a weekly Progressive/Economic column for the Fairfield, California Daily Republic and is the author of: Vile Acts of Evil, a look at the hidden economic history of the United States. Vile Acts of Evil almost wrote itself. (more...)
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