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Unprecedented nothingness

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Editorial: Nov. 4, 2012

ISSUE: Productivity of the 112th Congress
OUR VIEW: Performance wouldn’t fair well in working world

Members of the 112th Congress likely would not fare well in the real world of working class Americans.

For average men and women across the country fortunate enough to have work, job performance is measured by individual productivity and accomplishment in their position. An employee has a certain set of responsibilities they’re tasked to complete in order to retain employment. At the end of the day, those who meet or exceed the minimum expectations set for their job are invited back for the next shift. Those that don’t perform either find themselves unemployed, or are faced with a very uncomfortable discussion with their employer on what’s expected the next day.

Not so for this group of U.S. House and Senate lawmakers.

The 112th Congress has been tagged by those who watch as the most uncompromising, ideologically paralyzed and least productive in memory. With very little of major significance and importance to show for their time in Washington — reported to be roughly half the legislative productivity of the typical Congress and less than what was achieved by the 1947-1948 legislative body dubbed the “Do Nothing Congress” by President Harry Truman – USA Today characterized the recently adjourned session as “an unsurpassed record of failure.”

With so much work left undone on the Supercommittee’s budget failure, billions in looming automatic spending cuts set to initiate next year, farm bill policy, the Postal Service’s fiscal woes, and on and on, lawmakers in the House and Senate rewarded themselves by adjourning in the earliest caravan out of Washington since 1960. And to think, many are in their districts today campaigning to get re-elected for an additional term.

It’s of little wonder why American’s overall approval rating of Congress is so low.

According to statistics measured by Gallup, just 21 percent of Americans approve of this Congress’ performance. Although up from a dismal 12 percent approval earlier in the year, the current rating falls well below the pre-election average of 34 percent approval since 1974.

Rather than getting the proverbial pink slip, Congressional lawmakers will be returning to Washington next week following the election. They’ll have the job of cleaning up after themselves and finishing work left undone. And they’ll be doing so during a “lame duck” session where the open-mindedness if not necessity to cutting deals is most often the case. That isn’t always the best environment for the best decision-making for our nation.

Through all this we Americans simply will get more of the same from those whom we’ve sent to Washington to represent us in finding our collective way forward. Any expectation we may have had for statesmanship will too often and too quickly erode away to the same old familiar level of polarization and partisanship.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise's editorial board.