Politics has become exceedingly divisive with troubling outcomes. America’s 323 million citizens are concerned.
Congress has had 10 months to address a multitude of key issues facing this country. They include infrastructure repair, tax reform, the farm bill, health care reform, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, immigration reform, the fiscal 2018 budget, the federal deficit, international trade agreements, civil rights protection, women’s inequality, energy grid fortification, foreign policy, cybersecurity and criminal justice reform.
Not one of these issues has been resolved. Our 535 legislators have come up empty-handed and failed us miserably. The current 10 percent congressional approval rating, the lowest since 1974, is well- deserved.
The root of our legislators’ abysmal performance is disturbing and self-evident.
First, Congress works only 133 days a year versus the typical American’s 240 days. Imagine working 55 percent of the time, receiving $174,000 as salary (plus health care and retirement benefits), getting 13 weeks of “recess,” accomplishing little to nothing and not get fired.
Our 535 legislators insist they must get back home and meet with constituents while holding fundraisers to get re-elected. However, they have multiple full-time staff members in their district to handle constituent problems.
Plus, if the legislators are worth their salt, they won’t have to hold fundraisers. Their constituents will know they are working hard to represent the people and will give freely of their hard-earned savings to keep getting-the-job-done politicians in office.
A second problem is related to how our legislators spend their two to three days per week while in Washington, D.C.
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A hidden-camera operation conducted by “60 Minutes” and testimony from emeritus Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., showed six hours per day are devoted to raising money for re-election. Party officials told Jolly he needed to raise $18,000 a day, and Jolly admitted “members of Congress spend too much time raising money and not enough time doing their job.”
The third problem is our legislators voluntarily serve on 20 to 30 of the nearly 230 caucuses, everything from the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus to the Congressional Shellfish Caucus and Friends of Finland Caucus.
Caucus involvement is above and beyond legislators serving on several of the 20 House standing committees, 16 Senate standing committees, four joint committees and other committees of importance (for example, aging, ethics and intelligence). Citizens concur focusing on legislation to improve America should take priority over caucus attendance and fundraising.
The fourth problem in D.C. is realizing our political parties have evolved into five factions per party.
GOP legislators now are split into Christian Right Republicans, Libertarian Republicans, Main Street Business Republicans, Neoconservative Republicans and Populist Authoritarian Nationalist Republicans (often referred to as Donald Trump-Steve Bannon-Laura Ingraham Republicans). The Democratic Party wings include Conservative Democrats, Centrist Democrats, Liberal Democrats, Libertarian Democrats and Progressive Democrats.
If you tie together splintered political parties, devoting time to dozens of caucus groups and committees and fundraising six hours a day, we’ve got a significant problem.
FIXING THE PROBLEMS
The solution is simple:
• Work five days a week in D.C.
• Take 10 days of vacation like the average American you represent.
• Spend six hours a day on legislation versus fundraising and caucus attendance.
• Work in a bipartisan manner within your own party and across the aisle to get the job done.
Dear Congress: If you can’t accommodate these four requests, we’ll replace you with a mature and responsible citizen who cares more about the people than the party and getting re-elected.
This party-before-country behavior has gone on far too long.
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• Steve Corbin is a district leader in Iowa for the nonpartisan and not-for-profit group No Labels. Comments: Steven.B.Corbin@gmail.com