Ezra Klein Presents The Do Less Than the Do-Nothing Congress

Rachel Maddow was off yesterday but that doesn’t mean her show wasn’t still good: the Clown Show Parade stops for no woman – or man.

Fortunately, sitting in for Rachel was Washington Post columnist and blogger Ezra Klein, who goes after stupidity with the same zest we have become accustomed to from Rachel.

After pointing out that the Senate almost did something yesterday but actually didn’t because the votes they actually took didn’t actually count on a constitutional technicality, and that the House argued over a typo, Klein makes the argument that this Congress is worse than pretty bad (a point he earlier made in his Washington Post Wonkblog on July 13).

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“I wish I was kidding. I am not kidding. So that was Congress today. The Senate voted on a pair of totally meaningless bills; the House fought about a typo and if any of this comes as a surprise to you, you probably have not been paying enough attention because this is not a just bad Congress or even a pretty bad Congress. I think a case can, should, and probably must be made that this is one of the worst congresses we have had in this country.”

Hyperbole? Klein doesn’t think so and he is willing to prove it:

Klein looks first at Congressional productivity: the number of public laws they have passed, on a graph dating back to the 80th Congress in 1947- Harry Truman’s infamous “Do-Nothing Congress.”

Klein asked, “Ready for this Congress? Yeah, that’s it. That tiny little bar over there on the right; the one with the arrow.”

He is no doubt right that having five months remaining will not appreciably change the fact that as he says, the 112th Congress is the “Do less than the Do-Nothing Congress.”

(And though Klein doesn’t mention it, we can mention it here: that many of those pieces of legislation were aimed at attacking Women’s Reproductive Rights. Putting people back to work? Not so much.)

Which brought him to congressional popularity. Ouch.

“That sort of legislative ineptitude has also led the 112trh congress to become the single most despised Congress of all time in the eyes of the public.”

He presents a graph put together by Michael Bennett (D-CO):

“This particular congress is less popular than the IRS, the airline industry, lawyers, less popular than Richard Nixon during Watergate, than the banks and oil and gas industry, than BP during the Gulf Oil Spill, than Paris Hilton; this congress is less popular than communism and Hugo Chavez. The only thing less popular than Congress? Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro. And he’s not even much less popular.”

Did I say ouch? I think it’s much worse than ouch.

And it gets worse, not better.

This brought Klein to the “measurable” damage Congress is doing to our country beyond the damage they have done to their own reputations – both to job growth and consumer confidence, as well as our loss of our AAA credit rating for the first time in our history:

“This Congress has been so incompetent it can barely even keep the lights on in its own building, and I mean that literally.” Take a look at his next graph if you don’t believe him:

Congress, he reminds us, has to past 12 annual appropriations bills to keep the government funded and they have to do it by October 1. The average Congress gets three of these bills passed on time, not an impressive number but as he points out, “I said this congress was bad; I didn’t say others were good.”

The 112th congress passed “exactly zero appropriations bills on time last year.”

The curve can’t get much lower than 3 out of 12 but this Congress managed to not even reach that low level of expectation.

“This is not normal. This is not how it is supposed to work. This Congress has not only been historically unproductive, it has taken steps that have directly harmed the country, that have directly harmed our economic recovery.”

All of this is true. The numbers don’t lie. The evidence of your eyes don’t lie. The GOP will try to make this all Obama’s fault; they’ve been trying all along. Romney is running on this false pretense: that he is not the man (Obama) who, they allege, put us in these dire straights.

But the problem is not Obama and the problem for Romney is that he is not Obama: Why? Because he is a member of the same party as the people who have put us in these dire straights: the Republican Party. And this Congress is visible and persistent evidence of that Republican malfeasance, a living reminder of who is to blame. And a millstone around Mitt Romney’s neck.

Remember when Obama said we don’t want to let the people who drove the car into the ditch to get back behind the wheel? Yeah, we really don’t. We really, really don’t.

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