Just a quick observation prompted by events in recent weeks. These events are unrelated, yet they form a pattern. Together, they put Washington on the hot seat and shine a spotlight on its (questionable) ability to act in the public interest.
…despite an offshore oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico so devastating that it’s even shocking the sensibilities of Republicans, Congress can’t pass an energy bill that actually focuses on sustainable alternatives rather than kowtowing to the “drill baby drill!” reactionaries;
(and for the record, Kerry/Graham/Lieberman in its current form isn’t a solution, it’s inexcusably weak tea)
…despite a new anti-immigration law in Arizona so blatantly nativist and draconian that it offends the sensibilities of decent people everywhere, and not only violates the Constitution but undermines international relations—all counterpointed with multiple immigrant-rights rallies only weeks apart, sponsored by organizations as resolutely mainstream as the National Council of Churches, and in numbers that match and often dwarf the Tea Party gatherings that have so preoccupied the minds of the mainstream media—Congress can’t pass a reform bill that restores some fairness and rationality to our immigration policy;
(and it continues to mystify me how the crowd demonizing “illegals” seems willfully ignorant of the arbitrary and capricious history of immigration law in this country)
…despite the now obvious self-serving malfeasance of Goldman Sachs, emblematic of the behavior of Wall Street in general when the regulatory leash is off, Congress can’t pass a financial regulation bill that actually imposes serious constraints on corporate behavior…
(and as it stands the GOP seems to think even allowing debate constitutes a concession, while Chris Dodd has conceded that a genuinely independent consumer protection agency couldn’t pass even the Dem-majority Senate, and other Dems find the idea of reimposing Glass-Steagall restrictions to be too radical)
…then our governing structure is really fundamentally broken at a structural level.
These are among the most crucial issues facing the country today, problems that have been allowed to fester for years or even decades, things that deeply affect the lives of millions of people. It’s the job of our government, its very raison d’être, to address important public matters like these. And yet even in the wake of one of the most profoundly change-driven elections in living memory, Congress continues to struggle to formulate and pass even the most tepid reforms. It’s not that there’s a shortage of good ideas out there; it’s that they’re not being reflected in actual public policy.
If the protracted health-care debate taught us anything, it’s that the very least we could possibly ask for, the most hesitant surface-scratching imitation of actual reform, is apparently the most we can expect our legislators to get through the institutional sausage-making machinery.
There are lots of reasons for this. The corrupting influence of corporate money, the structural deformity of the two-party system, the momentum-slowing inertia of the Senate rules, the institutional ideology of mainstream media… (none of which, I note in passing, were factors created or even imagined in the Constitution)… but the in-depth analysis can await another day. For now, I’ll leave the observation to stand on its own.Tags: Congress, Constitution, energy, government, immigration, media, Senate, Wall Street