Low expectations for this Congress

The OlympianJanuary 8, 2014 

Would it shock you to know that 70 percent of Americans lack confidence in the federal government’s ability “to make progress on the important problems and issues facing the county in 2014”? We didn’t think so.

A new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research also reported that only 1 in 20 respondents felt the nation’s system of democracy is working well. More than half said that the nation’s political system needs either “a lot of changes” or a complete overhaul.

It’s no surprise that the usually optimistic American people would turn sour after last year’s seemingly endless stream of fabricated crises that culminated in a partial government shutdown. As federal lawmakers amped up the volume on the dissonance, sometimes for personal gain (Sen. Ted Cruz), citizens grew proportionately weary.

An earlier CNN poll reported that two-thirds of Americans from all demographics and political preferences felt the 113th Congress was the worst in their lifetimes. They weren’t wrong.

Congress passed only 66 bills last year, the lowest number in more than 40 years. Just 58 of those became law, and many of them addressed such inconsequential matters as naming post offices.

Given the entrenched political divide that exists in Washington, D.C., it’s no wonder that Congress was unable to tackle meaningful issues, such as immigration.

If last year’s do-nothing Congress turned American citizens into pessimists, this year’s Congress might intensify their depressed state of mind. This is a midterm election year, so lawmakers will be even more adverse to taking strong stands or tackling major issues.

The first drama will occur Feb. 7, the next deadline for raising the debt ceiling, which lawmakers keep punting down the road. Republicans will try to make approval contingent on policy changes — read: more spending cuts — and Democrats will refuse to bargain over our nation’s good faith and credit.

After that, congressional members will be focused on their election campaigns, pushing issues of any consequence into 2015.

It’s no wonder that Congress’ approval rating has hit an all-time low.

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