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Billions to support elected leaders while nation’s problems go unsolved

Almost anyone who works in corporate America nowadays is subject to performance reviews, most often on an annual basis, to evaluate strengths and weaknesses and set goals for doing better.

Do your job well and you may (or may not) get a salary increase; get a poor rating and you may be put on probation, or if you have consistently sub-par ratings with little or no improvement, management likely will give you the heave-ho.

OK, so assume you were an HR manager and your employees, as a group, had a performance rating of only 12 percent on a 100 scale. Further assume that those employees had earlier hit an all-time low of 10 percent and for the past eight months had scored no better than 15 percent.

In corporate America, it would more than likely result in mass firings. In Congress, though, where leadership and cooperation have been sorely needed from the nation’s “employees,” the past three-plus years have produced a heaping helping of wrangling, bickering, and pontificating, with little constructive accomplished in terms of solving the crises in the economy, housing, employment, infrastructure, education, Social Security/Medicare, etc.

They, to use a much overused phrase, “just keep kicking the can down the road” for somebody else to deal with.

The March Gallup Poll showed America’s legislative officials with an abysmal 12 percent approval rating (marginally better than the 10 percent in February). It has been 15 percent or below since August 2011.

“Congress has few supporters among the American public (just a few) months before voters decide on representatives in all 435 House seats and roughly one-third of Senate seats,” the Gallup pollsters note. Though divided control of Congress makes it harder for voters to assign blame on a partisan basis for the institution’s performance, they say, “incumbents will nonetheless have a harder time convincing voters to send them back to Washington for another term.”

The average voter has an increasingly difficult time relating to an elected body that includes a large percentage of millionaires and multi-millionaires, whose lifestyles and concerns and personal agendas are vastly different than theirs.

They don’t relate to the almost $300,000 in compensation and benefits for each member of Congress, nor can they comprehend the estimated $3 million-plus it costs annually to provide staff and support for each House member and $9 million-plus for each Senator.

The Congressional Research Service report notes that approximately $5.12 billion was requested for legislative branch operations in fiscal year 2011, an increase of 10 percent over the previous year’s $4.656 billion. (Contrast that to the 2011 U.S. inflation rate of 3 percent.)

One of the world’s most astute financiers, Warren Buffett, made this observation: “I could end the deficit in five minutes — just pass a law that says anytime there is a deficit of more than 3 percent of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for reelection.”

TAGS: Legislative
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