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Hullabaloo


Thursday, July 03, 2014

 
No, Barry Ritholtz. It's not an "incompetent Congress." It's immoral Republicans.

by David Atkins

Add another steaming pile to the genre of angry rants by impassioned good government types unable or unwilling to put the blame where it actually belongs:

In spite of the celebratory mood, I am troubled by the unrelenting incompetence of the U.S. Congress. Its inability to pass even the most basic legislation is beyond baffling.

Case in point: College students who use new Stafford loans to pay for the 2014-2015 school year will see borrowing costs rise 21 percent. As of July 1, interest on new student loans rises to 4.66 percent from 3.86 percent last year, with future rates potentially increasing even more. This comes as interest rates on mortgages and other consumer credit hovered near record lows. For a comparison, the rate on the 10-year Treasury is 2.6 percent. Congress could have imposed lower limits on student-loan rates, but chose not to.

This is but one example out of thousands of an inability to perform the basic duties, which includes helping to educate the next generation of leaders and productive citizens. It goes far beyond partisanship; it is a matter of lack of will, intelligence and ability.

There are three groups to blame for the gross dereliction of duty we have seen from this do-nothing Congress. The first, paradoxically, is the Federal Reserve. Its monetary policies have allowed some small measure of recovery, giving cover to Congress's failure to manage our fiscal policies. I will address this in greater detail in the near future.

The second group is the Supreme Court. Its campaign of replacing our Jeffersonian democracy with a corporatocracy -- sponsored by and sold to the highest bidder -- continues unabated. The entire left-right debate is no longer relevant -- it's over, and has been replaced with a new paradigm: you versus the corporation. It isn't unthinkable that a century from now, the Roberts court will be vilified like none before it.

But the group most to blame for the sad state of Congress is you, the American voter. Or, more accurately, the American non-voter.

The U.S. has among the lowest voter-turnout rates of any democracy. We are a wealthy nation, fat and happy, and that has led to a decrease in citizen participation. As Fair Vote has observed, “Voter turnout in the United States has never risen to levels of most other well-established democracies.” In the midterm cycle, less than 40 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots. In the primaries, it’s a tiny fraction of that number.

Compare that to countries with compulsory voting. Democracies such as Australia, Belgium and Chile have voter turnout of almost 90 percent. In Sweden and Italy (without compulsory voting) turnout rates are about 80 percent.

Look no further than the recent primaries to see the impact. Extremists from both major parties determine who runs for office. Hence, we end up with a Congress that has the lowest rating in American history returning to office with a 98 percent re-election rate.
"Congress" could have fixed the student loan problem? Not with Republicans in charge. "Congress" could have fixed the corporatocracy? Really? The last major act of Congress saw Democrats singlehandedly create a slightly more humane healthcare system that, for all its marked progressive improvements, was still a corporate giveaway--and get flamed as Communists for their trouble with little media pushback as Republicans told seniors that Democrats were taking away their Social Security to give it to poor people.

Maybe the reason that voter turnout is higher in other countries might have something to do with their parliamentary systems and better protections for workers? Maybe it has to do with not having elections bought and paid for, or a system of government expressly designed to protect the status quo as much as possible?

Maybe the reason the Roberts court is a scorn-worthy joke is because it's stacked with 4 arch conservatives and one regular conservative against 4 left-of-centers? How is this an institutional failure, instead of an right-wing ideological one?


Both sides aren't to blame. Just one side is.


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