Home / Articles / Commentary / Guest Opinion / Amid challenges, Congress makes a mess
Print this Article
Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010 01:02 am

Amid challenges, Congress makes a mess

The bitterness and dysfunction in Congress continue, with the Republicans in the Senate and the House refusing to vote for any bills which the Democrats might point to as something they, and Congress, have done to benefit the American people. Despite President Obama’s stated desire to create an atmosphere of bipartisanship, Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, stated that defeat of the health care bill was necessary and that it would be “Obama’s Waterloo.” John Boehner, Republican of Ohio and House Republican leader, said “Blow the turd up” of the fiscal crisis and the stimulus bill. Opposing and defeating all proposed Democratic policies is clearly the Republican goal.

These statements don’t sound like the measured words of a loyal, principled opposition. They sound like the bloodlust of a party which held the presidency for 20 of the last 28 years before Obama’s election and wants it, and Congress, back. No matter what it takes. The people be damned.

What role race may play in the extreme Republican dislike of Obama is hard to say, but one doesn’t have to stretch one’s imagination too far to imagine that this particular group of old white guys has the attitude of, well, old white guys. And the Democrats aren’t much better, although in a different way. They seem to lack a coherent vision, confidence and courage despite strong majorities in both bodies of Congress. They are retreating into the woodwork to avoid Republican attack and the wrath of the people in the 2010 election. The main purpose of both parties’ maneuvering appears to be to get re-elected, not to enact policies that will help and encourage business to begin hiring, the key to a return to economic health.

With an unemployment plus underemployment rate of 17 to 18 percent, lost homes and underwater mortgages, there is a mood in the country ranging from anxiety to panic. With the advent of globalization and the corporate search for the lowest wage rate in the world, downward pressure on wages and working conditions here will continue and more jobs will be lost to other countries. While angry at Wall Street and huge bonuses in the financial sector, the public strikes out at the most available and visible target, government. Even though it is the American financial sector which has exacted such tremendous damage on the country and the world, the anger nonetheless focuses on government.

In a sense, what Congress does or doesn’t do may be irrelevant. In Kevin Phillips’ book, Bad Money, published in 2008, before the meltdown, Phillips compares the U.S. now to the latter days of the Dutch and British empires. They too shifted away from the making of real things and to the juggling of piles of money to make more money, as if their physical and spiritual vigor were spent.

Fareed Zakaria, in his book The Post American World, also published in 2008, is not as gloomy as Phillips. He sees a lessened American role, not as a result of American collapse, but from “a rise of the rest” — economic growth coming from all over the world to compete with us and demand a greater share of the pie. As our economic and political hegemony end, so will our mythic role as the “shining city on the hill.” This is surely happening now and will continue to happen. How well we adapt to no longer running the show, to giving up the conceit of American exceptionalism and moral superiority, is vital to how well we will adapt to a lesser role in a changed future.

In the face of these enormous, inevitable changes, Congress could at least try to help ease the country through the painful present and the even greater changes coming. Instead, Congress continues to mess in the sandbox. Why do they do it?

Norman Brown of Springfield is a structural engineer who owns and operates a local consulting engineering firm. Contact him at normb@brownengineers.com.
Log in to use your Facebook account with

Login With Facebook Account

Recent Activity on IllinoisTimes


  • Thu
  • Fri
  • Sat
  • Sun
  • Mon
  • Tue
  • Wed