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Opinion: Congress This Year: Like Last Year, Only Worse

Tuesday, January 24, 2012 - 11:37 AM

I'm sure a little bit of digging would be all that is required to find a session of Congress that was worse than last year, but not in the last couple generations. It was next to worthless as far as what Washington accomplished, and polls reflect this with historic low approval ratings for Congress and the two major parties. Obama's numbers are suffering as well, especially among independents. It could only go up from here... right?

For all the bad that happened last year, most everything that led to gridlock isn't going anywhere, and in many cases will be worse. Add a presidential election cycle into the mix and this year might even make last year seem bearable. The first two notable issues to make headlines through the din of the Republican primary slugfest—SOPA/PIPA and the Keystone XL pipeline—illustrate how this may play out.

Before a massive online protest of websites blacking out their sites in protest of the dangerous anti-piracy legislation sent a tidal wave of angry web surfers to their congresspersons to complain, it appeared as if the bills might pass. The dangers inherent to the failed bill don't need to be repeated here, but the mere fact that such a potentially damaging bill initially had majority support in Congress is in and of itself unnerving. If you think this battle has been won, just look to a trade treaty called ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) that is just as bad, and in some ways worse, then SOPA or PIPA.

The Keystone XL pipeline is another example. The national media really has dropped the ball on this issue, oversimplifying it into just another cartoonish battle between left and right—the left going with far left environmentalists and the right pushing for business interests. Here in Nebraska, one of the deepest red states, opposition to the pipeline is widespread. Not in general, but because its path goes through a section of the state such that, should a sizable leak occur, it would have the potential to cause catastrophic damage to that section of the state's ability to irrigate the crops that are the backbone of our state's economy.

You don't hear this from either side, even though our conservative Republican governor is against the pipeline. Obama and the Democrats have dropped the ball in highlighting this, and the Republicans haven't accepted efforts to move the pipeline to along a route that wouldn't be so potentially harmful. Neither side seems willing to budge at all from the corners they've painted themselves into with the talking-point garbage they've been spewing. It also must be a complete coincidence that Republican House Speaker John Boehner happens to own a bunch of stock in companies involved with the Keystone XL pipeline.

Grandstanding, rubbish legislation and nothing accomplished. Sounds much like last year, doesn't it? And we're just three weeks in.

I'm sure some good old Tea Party and Occupy movement protests, with lovable signs saying oh-so-nice things about politicians they dislike will add to the effect as well. The President, seeing an opening for a little wagging of the dog, appears to be gearing up to go full bore into blaming Congress for all of his ills, assuredly resulting in a river of good will in return. Not to be outdone, word from a retreat of Congressional Republicans indicated they're going to go on offensive from the get go and continue blocking just about everything the president intends to accomplish.

I've been saying for years that things have to get worse before they get better. This has been borne out year after year...I just hope the tipping point comes soon. There are too many pivotal issues that need working on, and nobody with any real power in Washington that appears at all interested in doing much of anything about them.

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