Stupid Congress: 20 years of GOP war on congressional competence


#1

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#2

Both sides do it! Everyone is to blame! I only vote 3rd party alien abductees! If you disagree, you're just as bad as the worst Republican!


#3

Conservatives don't like science because science doesn't like them.


#4

No, it's the humans! Wipe them off Earf! stuck_out_tongue


#5

I concur.


#6

Regulatory Capture is a hell of a drug.


#7

While that link to link to Altemeyer’s incredible “The Authoitarians” is very important (and highly recommended reading), there is another factor that keeps conservatives and science apart: the language barrier.

You aren’t going to convince someone of anything when you aren’t even speaking the same language, and in the case of people such as the anti-science conservatives, they don’t speak the language of reason and logic, so why should we expect a logical argument to convince them? Instead they see phatic language/expression as more important and convincing. This is why they respond to alpha-male style grandstanding, and see peace talks (regardless of how effective they may be) as weak or cowardly.

The link above is from the Dover trial era of the creationist/“intelligent design” brouhaha, but the analysis it contains describes a far broader concept that is basically synonymous with the anti-inteligence conservatives.


#8

This analysis is great, but it does nothing to change the situation. And the bridges continue to fall down.

For an especially horrifying example, read up on how Clinton staffed the upper ranks of FEMA with experts... and then his successor purged them all and put in political donors. And then hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, and "government couldn't do anything right."


#9

Wow, where to start with the logical fallacies in this one.

"In fact, had the Republicans’ desired language passed, congressional personnel would have become the only employees in America whose employer (in their case, the federal government) was explicitly forbidden from contributing to their health care"

Which ... doesn't matter in the slightest, because health care contributions are simply a part of a pay package, which could be adjusted to compensate. And, more to the point, this was a failed effort - it didn't work.

"The Gingrich Revolutionaries of 1995 and the Tea Partiers of 2011 share the same basic dream: to defund and dismantle the vast complex of agencies and programs that have been created by bipartisan majorities since the New Deal."

Really? And how is that working out for them?

"Of course, all of this slashing and cutting has done nothing to actually help shrink the federal government. Real federal spending has increased 50 percent since 1995, in line with the growth of the U.S. population and economy."

So ... what they did had the opposite effect - or was completely ineffective at achieving their supposed goal. Noted.

And wait a minute - a 50% increase in spending was in line with U.S. population growth? Ummm ... in 1990, the U.S. population was ... 248 million. In 2010, the U.S. population was 308 million. My math might be rusty, but that would seem to be a 25% increase. And in 1995 the federal budget was about $2.1 trillion, while in 2013 the federal budget was $3.4 trillion, which is more like ... a 61% increase. And economic growth? That's the only thing that he's even close on, $10.27 trillion in 1995 to $15.94 trillion in 2013, for an increase of 55%. But neither of those numbers is "in-line" with federal budget growth ... even if you accept the unspoken assumption that government spending should be in-line with population growth and economic growth, and if you ignore that much of the way this "in-line" spending was achieved was two unnecessary wars and a massive bipartisan bailout of banks during the financial crisis.

"That, in turn, has made the jobs of congressional staffers, of keeping an eye on government and sorting through the ever-growing amount of information coming at them from lobbyists and constituents, far more difficult, even as their numbers have not remotely kept pace with the growth of government and K Street."

Okay - congressional staffers are the honest, upright, stalwart guardians of good government, their numbers cruelly slashed in 1995 by the stupid Republicans. They, and they alone, take the responsibility for monitoring the leviathan, ensuring that government is running efficiently and ... sorry, I can't even say it with a straight face.

In reality land, congressional staff positions are highly partisan, high turnover positions that serve as the fast track to well-paid lobbying gigs. Most of them are hired by the majority party in that branch of Congress, and when leadership changes hands, staffers are routinely dismissed and replaced along partisan lines - as the author of this article admits. Most congressional staffers are either young and willing to work for the low pay in exchange for access to the halls of power, or veteran lobbyists serving a tour in the staff when their patrons were in power. The idea that congressional staff were somehow long-term unbiased experts, serving selflessly for low pay year after year, is simply laughable.

And all that ignores the fact that Democrats have been in charge of both branches of Congress many times since 1995 - and from 2008 to 2010, they were in charge of the entire government, with an almost filibuster-proof majority. And yet, nothing was done about staffing levels, the OTA, or any of the other things changed by the Republicans in 1995. That should be a clue that this is an issue that is simply irrelevant.

And finally, the real kicker:

"in the last year we’ve witnessed two appalling government fiascoes that better congressional oversight might have avoided: the botched rollout of the health insurance exchanges and the uncontrolled expansion of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs."

So let me get this straight. The author believes that a shortage of congressional staff was the cause of the botched rollout of the health insurance exchanges? A program proposed by a Democratic President, passed by a Democratic Congress, and executed by a Democratic administration over the course of six years, during a time when the Republicans were largely powerless to do anything about it - and who failed to do anything about it even when they tried? And that a lack of congressional staff was the problem with the uncontrolled expansion of the NSA, who to this day are defended by both a Democratic President and virtually every Democrat in the House and Senate, except for a handful of stalwarts ... who are working with a similar handful of Republicans to try to bring down the NSA leviathan? Does the author believe that extra congressional staff would have also stopped the march to war in Iraq, which was also nearly unanimously supported by Democrats?

The logical leaps this article requires in order to remain plausible are mind-boggling. I mean, let's be honest - most of the Republicans in Congress are definite bad actors. But the supposed lack of congressional staff is not anywhere near the core problem, nor would increasing staffing levels change a damn thing in Congress.


#10

Your argument seems to rest on the assumption that Republicans have been powerless and Democrats given free access to anything they need to support government policies.

I think I see the problem.


#11

Smart people don't want to be politicians anymore, or even teachers. We've been taught how thankless, demeaning, and futile these jobs have become. And we all got used to that...

Mission accomplished!

Clinton/Warren 2016! We need a drastic scrambling of brains here.


#12

My argument rests on the assumption that Republicans have done everything in their power to thwart the Democrats, and utterly failed. Has Congress passed any legislation that delayed or impacted the implementation of the PPACA in any way? No - in fact, when they offered legislation to make the President's delays legal, the President refused them. And from 2008 to 2010, the Democrats did have access to anything they needed to support government policies - unless you're going to argue that having the Presidency, almost complete control of the Senate, and complete control of the House made the Democrats powerless. And are you seriously going to argue that the Democrats did not have control over the implementation of the PPACA - that the President and his administration simply let the Republicans run it into the ground?

This article is the worst kind of wishful thinking - a desperate attempt to avoid responsibility by pushing off Democratic failures on the Republican boogeymen. The fact is the Democrats have not only largely failed to implement their policies, they've actively supported evil and/or illegal policies like the war in Libya, the PPACA delays, and the NSA/FBI warrantless surveillance. Democratic supporters need to deal with that, not avoid the hard truth by trying to put the blame on a reduction in Congressional staffing that happened twenty years ago and has been ignored by Democrats ever since.


#13

If only Newt Gingrich had been put in change of the NSA...


#14

For what it's worth, the F-scale test said I was a "liberal airhead." Most other people call be a right-wing nutjob. (OTOH, there was the Pajamas Media commenter who claimed I was a Marxist...)


#15

Wow, excellent piece.

Phase 1 is to attain authority (that is why science reporters will not do for this – it has to be scientists themselves). In doing so, the scientists have to do more than just assert equal authority as the priest, sheriff and mayor. For a hierarchically-minded audience, the only way to rise in authority is for someone else’s authority to diminish at the same time (“How can the UN tell MY President what to do?”). It is a ladder they think of and only one person or group can be at any single rung of it. Thus, scientists have to displace clergy, lawyers and politicians as sources of authority on scientific matters. How does one do this? When dealing with kids (and adults who have not yet made the change to a rational worldview), the only way is to appear to be 100% sure. This is not the audience that gets error-bars, confidence intervals, fine points of philosophy of science, and alternative hypotheses. You tell it how it is (even if inside you cringe, knowing that what you are saying is only 98% sure). You tell it with conviction. No need to lie. Just get out of the science-paper mindset. The studies mentioned in the Edge piece confirm this notion as well.

This is something I've been thinking ever since Mike Moore was raked over the coals for being 'truthy'.


#16

Your assertion that the Democrats could have passed anything they wanted from 2008 to 2010 assumes that Democrats usually vote as a unanimous block. When was the last time that happened? Only Republicans do that on a regular basis. And there are plenty of red state Democrats that wouldn't vote for anything perceived as liberal.

You also assume the final form of the PPACA wasn't shaped in any way by Republicans. The whole reason it's nearly that complicated is the need to buy votes by keeping the insurance companies happy. Expanding Medicare to all ages would have been a ton easier, and way more efficient (compare the amount of money Medicare spends on administration to what for-profit companies spend). The confusing and complex monstrosity that resulted was based on a Republican plan in order to get them to help. And of course they were welcome to try to improve it, but instead threw a cynical tantrum in order to continue on with our existing broken health care system.


#17

And this is a problem the Republicans are responsible for ... how again? Did the Democrats expect that gaining control of the Presidency and Congress would make their political opponents simply roll over and play dead? Further, the evidence indicates exactly that they could pass anything they wanted, because the PPACA was passed along strictly partisan lines - albeit with some dubious legislative maneuvering. And more importantly, even if what you assert was true, what was the impact of fewer Congressional staff? The author doesn't offer any evidence that it changed anything at all.

And yet, they failed. Completely. the PPACA is law, and is being implemented. Democratic strategic incompetence in trying to win over Republican votes is not the fault of the Republicans, and neither was the design of the "confusing and complex monstrosity". And again, the author offers no evidence at all that smaller Congressional staffs were at fault either. Does anyone really think that a few additional Congressional staffers would have changed the minds of anyone in the PPACA debate?


#18

Well said. Fatality!


#19

Sorry to disagree, but Tea Party knows science: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/tea-party-science-98488.html


#20

George Washington warned us about the perils of political parties (factions) in his Farewell Address. Too bad most don't know that.