We need to change Congress

Posted on Sep 3 2013 - 6:31am by Adam Blackwell

If you have paid the slightest attention to news outlets and pop culture in recent years, you have noticed that the news constantly changes. However, one subject never seems to go away: just how slow Congress actually is at doing its job.

Political pundits love to discuss this issue in their “talk shows.” Congress is the political cartoonists’ favorite subject, as well. We have all heard the old adage, “What’s the opposite of progress? Congress!” Pollsters and academics even show that Congress continually earns a low national approval rating.

Each of these groups offers its own analysis on why Congress is so slow. After spending an entire summer in our nation’s capital, and witnessing firsthand the work, or lack thereof, on Capitol Hill, I would like to think I have developed some interesting explanations for Congress’ slow pace.

Firstly, Congress has an attitude problem, and it trickles down from the members of Congress to entry-level staffers. When you walk the offices of Capitol Hill, you move out of the way for members of Congress. You get off the elevator, so they can ride alone or with their staff. You use a separate lunch line in congressional cafeterias. At one congressional cafeteria, I even overheard a staffer suggest they close the cafeteria to the general public so staffers could get their food quickly. For the record, it never took me more than 10 minutes to grab my lunch.

I understand that members of Congress deserve a certain level of respect because of their positions; however, they are still the people’s representatives. As such, they should be treated just as everyday citizens are treated. Maybe if members of Congress were not held on such high pedestals, they would be more adept at passing legislation and considering the needs of their constituents.

Members of Congress are in a unique position, they split their time between D.C. and their home district or state. So, it is understandable that they should be given occasional two-week breaks from the Capitol.

But, if you take a close look at their working schedules, you will gain an interesting perspective. Congress handles most of its work on Capitol Hill Tuesday through Thursday. Currently, they’re completing a four-week recess.

How many working Americans do you know who take a month-long hiatus from their offices?

Furthermore, how many working Americans only work a Tuesday-Thursday work week? It’s clear to me that Congress would be more efficient if they spent more time actually legislating.

Our Founding Fathers purposefully designed a slow, inefficient government. They wanted to decrease corruption and centralization of power. To do this, they had to dramatically slow down the governing and legislating process. However, today, America calls for speedier action, so we must consider how to change our government.

We cannot be afraid of change, but must embrace it. We must publicly discuss the best ways to create a quicker, more efficient government that is more accepting of the needs of the people. I am an ardent supporter of the Democratic Party; however, I realize that this is a bipartisan issue. We must address it openly from all sides. Above all, we need to fight for a Congress that is speedier, more aware and more proactive, instead of reactive.

We can accomplish this by engaging ourselves — calling our legislators, sending emails, organizing peaceful demonstrations and even using social media to organize friends. In order to create change, you must create a loud voice for action.

Margaret Mead, a famous American anthropologist, said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”