Congress just can't do it

Congress has just proved itself irrelevant and incapable in the effort to save this country.

It will ultimately be up to us.

The last great bipartisan moment came in the aftermath of 9-11 – more than 10 years ago – when a group of congressmen gathered on the Capitol steps to sing God Bless America. Since then, they’ve been singing a different tune and failing America. Why should God help America when it won’t help itself?

And why does it take a foreign attack to bring these people together? Can’t they see the financial 9-11 coming?

In short, no. This Congress is a disgrace.

The latest insult came Monday, when the so-called “super committee” charged with cutting the deficit before Thanksgiving – just $1.2 trillion over 10 years – had to admit abject failure. The failure is supposed to trigger automatic “stop me before I overspend again” cuts no one wants. But this Congress may even lack the will to face the consequences of its own choices: Since the draconian automatic cuts don’t take effect until 2013, they know they’ve got another year to dilly-dally and try to slink out of a tough decision.

Even if that means the nation’s finances will continue to smolder and the financial markets (i.e., our nest eggs and pocketbooks) will likely suffer as a result.

When you consider how pitifully small a task these people had – to cut less in 10 years than they overspend in one – it makes their nonperformance all the more negligent. All the while, they see the fruits of legislative cowardice withering in Europe, and yet learn not a thing. They should be too embarrassed to pick up their paychecks at this point. The lot of them ought to resign in sheer mortification of being the worst excuse for a legislative body this nation has ever seen.

You could not ask for a simpler, more profound act: Just lower, a little bit, the disastrous trajectory the country is on. They can’t even do that.

Why not? Several reasons.

First, America is, itself, undecided on what to do, and even what it is. Are we a constitutional republic with large liberties and limited government? Or are we to be a Western Europe-style social democracy with big government, stifling high taxes and unsustainable tuck-you-in-at-night rations from on high?

We’ve got one more election to decide that, it seems.

Moreover, our friends in Congress like the deal they’ve got and they don’t want to let go of it – from great perks to terrific health and retirement plans to not having to follow the laws they pass. A new book also alleges that members of Congress are enriching themselves in the financial markets through insider information they glean on Capitol Hill. For these reasons and more, there are scratch marks on the doorjambs from the few times we’ve been able to drag an incumbent out the door.

Our reflexive incumbent-electing selves are getting the kind of government we deserve.

In order to save the country, we first have to save ourselves from a dysfunctional Congress – and from ourselves.

We need a constitutional amendment limiting congressional terms, in order to relieve this professional ruling class from the burden of reaching deeper into our pockets. And we need another one to limit their spending to what we can afford – tying it to, say, the gross domestic product.

Congress is clearly incapable. Not even the wall they themselves put their backs up against could help them locate their spine.

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