Many years ago, the comedian Jackie Mason joked that Congress should work on commission: If the country was making a profit, Congress would be entitled to a percentage. Such an arrangement, he implied, would give legislators an incentive to make the economy and society work better.
This year, it seems to me, members of Congress--Democrats and Republicans
alike--are not entitled to even a salary, let alone a commission. They are bound to see regular paychecks as tacit approval of their performance, and no legislative body deserves approval that allows a travesty like the "sequester" to happen.
Frankly, the performance of Congress this year has been abysmal. They just can't seem to get things right. Barack Obama handily won the Presidential election, yet the Grand Old Party acts as if it had come out on top. In fact, were it not for the pre-election gerrymandering of Congressional districts last year, Republicans wouldn't even have won a majority in the House.
Now, the GOP/Tea Party cabal in Congress obstructs progress on every front. Its members seem to have doubled-down on a silent pact--to stop President Obama's every attempt to improve the lives of Americans, including their own.
The Failure To Control Gun Violence Is a Case in Point
The recent defeat in the Senate of various bills designed to curb gun violence exemplifies our current legislative dysfunction. Congress as a whole (or is it a "hole?") seems to ignore the fact that there are fewer members of the National Rifle Association than there are residents in the single urban center of New York City. Instead, lawmakers allow the NRA to bully them, or to seduce them with the prospect of large campaign contributions, into rejecting gun laws with actual teeth that are supported by a large majority of Americans.
In particular, the Senate's rejection of simple background
checks for all gun purchases was both disgraceful and astounding. Fully ninety-percent of Americans, including many gun
owners, approve of such checks, and, in a democratic society like ours, Congress is in business for the express purpose of legislating the will of the people.
Of course, there was also another problem in passing the background-check legislation. It's true that 54 Senators voted for the bill, and 46 against it. That, folks, is a majority in anyone's math, and, by ordinary democratic standards, it would seem to indicate that the bill was passed. But, no. That reasoning overlooks an arcane rule of the Senate, which nowadays requires a 60-vote majority to pass most any significant legislation. The background-check bill fell short of this super-majority, and so was defeated. In consequence, people can continue to sell guns from the trunks of their cars. How convenient! But, also, how deadly!
The People, Yes!
While the performance of Congress has long been bad, we saw again last week that the American people themselves can rise magnificently to meet any challenge. I refer to the horrific events at the Boston Marathon, where terrorists--spelled "c-o-w-a-r-d-s"--secretly placed bombs in strategic places to do maximum damage to innocent spectators.
Following the signal events of 9/11, Americans quickly took to heart an important principle: that, if we allowed the threat of terrorist attacks to keep us at home--to not go to baseball
games, or hockey games, or philharmonic events, or stores for simple shopping--then the
terrorists would have won their battle to deprive us of our way of life. Instead, we kept our courage and went on with our lives.
The terrorists may never understand why they can't keep Americans down and afraid, but, last week in Boston, we showed them yet another reason why.
After their bombs had rained out their indiscriminate and deadly shrapnel, people who might have run for their own lives instead rushed to the rescue of perfect strangers who had been injured.
Strangers helping strangers. What a concept! Americans are a hearty bunch, consisting of people from all over the world who came here seeking a better life. In the long history of the world, no nation has matched America's willingness to welcome foreigners and bring them into the community. As long as the people of America continue to have hearts that beat for peace and friendship, love and understanding, no efforts to bring us down can succeed.
To Sum Up:
Recent events have shown us both bad and good sides of America: