Home > Politics, United States > >Throw the bums out

>Throw the bums out

>Rasmussen Reports does some interesting surveys. This time they’ve come up with a survey on the US Congress.

It turns out that the majority of people want to turf them out with 49% saying that the Congress is no better than choosing people from the phone book.

Congress was front and center in the national news last week and the American people were far from impressed. If they could vote to keep or replace the entire Congress, 59% of voters would like to throw them all out and start over again. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that just 17% would vote to keep the current legislators in office.

Today, just 23% have even a little confidence in the ability of Congress to deal with the nation’s economic problems and only 24% believe most Members of Congress understand legislation before they vote on it.

Last week, the House of Representatives initially rejected a financial bailout bill proposed by the Bush Administration. Later, after the Senate added a number of items that some call “pork” and others call “sweeteners,” the measure eventually passed. While the bill survived Washington, it did so at a time when just 30% of voters favored it and 45% were opposed.

Only half (49%) believe that the current Congress is better than individuals selected at random from the phone book. Thirty-three percent (33%) believe a randomly selected group of Americans could do a better job and 19% are not sure.

A separate survey found that just 11% of voters say Congress is doing a good or an excellent job.

Despite these reviews, more than 90% of Congress is likely to be elected this November due to an electoral system designed to benefit incumbents. The biggest advantage offered those in the House of Representatives is a process known as Gerrymandering where Congressional Districts are loaded with friendly voters from Representative’s own party. In effect, Members of Congress—working through their state legislature–get to choose their voters rather than letting voters choose their Congressman.

Also aiding incumbents is high name recognition from news coverage, large staffs funded by taxpayers, and other perks. While the staff positions are technically excluded from politics, the constituent services they provide in a Congressman’s name are among the most effective of all campaign techniques.

Forty-nine percent (49%) of all voters believe Members of Congress are paid too much while just 5% believe they are paid too little. Thirty-seven percent (37%) say Congressional pay is about right.

While unhappiness with Congress cuts across partisan and demographic lines, Democrats are a bit less unhappy than other voters. Seventy-four percent (74%) of Republicans would vote to throw out the entire Congress as would 62% of unaffiliated voters. Only 43% of Democrats go along. Still, just 25% of those in Barack Obama’s party would vote to keep the entire Congress even though it’s controlled by Democrats.

However, there is agreement across party lines when it comes to whether or not most Members of Congress understand legislation before they vote on it—25% of Democrats say yes along with 24% of Republicans and 24% of unaffiliated voters.

Democrats currently enjoy a nine-point advantage in the Generic Congressional Ballot.
When the Constitution was written, the nation’s founders expected that there would be a 50% turnover in the House of Representatives every election cycle. That was the experience they witnessed in state legislatures at the time (and most of the state legislatures offered just one-year terms). For well over 100 years after the Constitution was adopted, the turnover averaged in the 50% range as expected.

In the twentieth century, turnover began to decline. As power and prestige flowed to Washington during the New Deal era, fewer and fewer Members of Congress wanted to leave. In 1968, Congressional turnover fell to single digits for the first time ever and it has remained very low ever since.

There is a fair argument that can be made regarding term limits for all positions in US politics due to the corruption and incompetence by too many long serving members.

If those in Congress and the Senate could only serve a maximum of 8 years then perhaps the subprime mortgage scheme could have been fixed before it unwound with such negative results.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Politics, United States
  1. October 6, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    >Actually, there’s a far better (in my estimation), though more abstract argument for term limits. Without them, we, a nation founded on the idea of government by the citizens, have developed a professional elite governing class. Term limits are the only way to undo this damage.

  2. October 6, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    >Limit the house to 6 years, the Senate to one term. Most importantly, return to Senators being appointed rather than elected. The Senate was supposed to represent the voice of the state government, NOT the people of the state. The house represents the people, thus why it is referred to as “The Peoples House”. By having the Senators chosen by direct election, they now represent the people and no one represents the states interests. Can you say unfunded federal mandates? The federal government was not supposed to be so big or powerful!

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