What’s the Matter with Policy?

Sep 05 2011

At last I am in DC to experience first-hand why logical policy ideas fail to make it through the legislative process, or if it does survive the grinder, why those ideas are often no longer recognizable.  Somehow, straight-forward, no-brainer ideas turn into political brinkmanship while the most wrong-headed policy ideas slip through into law.  Why?

Is it because no politician wants to give a “win” to an opponent even if the policy idea is sound?

Is the processes of getting a bill turned into law so complex that only a select few have the capacity to navigate the storm?

Are interest groups using Congress as pawns in a proxy battle against each other?

Or does Congress wield too much power for their own (and the country’s) good?

Or perhaps this was the intention of our Founders to force compromise to make sure no one gets what they want.

At this point, when Congress seems so dysfunctional, I am inclined to believe that the Founders were playing a big democratic joke on everyone and then died before they had the chance to deliver the punchline.

Indeed, Congress has an approval rating of approximately the last two digits I write when indicating the date on a recent check.  Yet individual Members often have approval ratings better than the President among their constituents.  Does this mean that people are cynics of Congress as an institution or are they simply dissatisfied with the recent processed, empty-calorie laws that tend to be its final product?

I am an optimist.  And I won’t be passing my own judgement until I learn the broad, historic context and the current machinery on which Congress operates.  In the mean time, I will be questioning the judgement of others.  I don’t consider our government as a fluke of history; I tend to believe that whether by evolution or design, policy concerning such a diverse country was meant to be subject to the gauntlet that is Congress.


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