There Ought To Be A Law Against an “Incompetent” Congress

by Diane Dimond on June 24, 2013


Guess How Much to Run This Place Every Year?

What would you say if I told you the federal government is spending at least $800 million dollars on something you don’t like or want? It’s happening. Year after year and the actual figure is probably closer to $1 billion dollars.

Fact: Recent public opinion polls show a huge majority of us do not approve of the job Congress is doing. The folks at the Gallup organization report the lowest level of citizen confidence in our Senators and Congressional representatives ever recorded for any institution in the history of their polling.

As of June 2013: Only 10% of Us Approve of Congress

In a Gallup survey taken the first week of June only 10% of the respondents said they were satisfied with Congress’ performance. At about the same time a Rasmussen Report survey found that just 6% of those asked gave Congress a positive job rating.

How long do you think you’d keep your $174,000 a year job if your job performance was less than 10%?

Where did I get $174,000 figure? That’s the annual salary of most of the 535 members of Congress. Those in the leadership (Speaker of the House, the majority and minority leaders) make even more, up to $223,000. Taken together, the yearly nut just to pay these sub-par performing legislators is more than $94 million. Fasten your seat belt because that’s not even the half of it.

“Leaders” Like Sen. Harry Reid Make 223K Plus Perks

Every member of Congress also gets a taxpayer funded allowance. According to the Congressional Research Service the money goes for, “Official office expenses, including staff, mail, travel between a Member’s district or state and Washington, DC, and other goods and services.” The allowance differs depending on how far away the representative’s district is from the Capitol (airline flights back and forth are expensive!) but guess what the average allowance is? More than $1.3 million each year!

Grab your calculator and let’s add this up. At a minimum, each member gets a $174,000 salary and a $1.3 million allowance for a total of more than $1.5 million per year. Now, let’s multiply that by the 535 members of our lackluster, partisan-paralyzed Congress and you get a grand total that tops $818 million. This doesn’t even count all the various perks members get or the cost of keeping the U.S. Capitol building operating.

Congress Overspends Like a Mistress on a Shopping Spree

So, what do you think? You think we’re getting our almost billion dollars’ worth of leadership? Yeah, me neither.

I think there ought to be a law against such blatant and meaningless spending of taxpayer’s dollars. Seems as though a case could be made for conspiracy to de-fraud, mis-appropriation of federal funds or SOMETHING!

Outgoing Senator Tom Coburn, a republican from Oklahoma, said it best and with the fewest number of words. “Look,” he told Bloomberg News recently, “We’re incompetent.” Coburn, like many other members are seriously disappointed with the lack of progress on Capitol Hill in recent years and he believes the members absolutely deserve the low poll ratings they get. “It’s fully appropriate,” Coburn said and it’s part of the reason he isn’t running for office again after 19 years of service.

Coburn About Congress: “We’re Incompetent”

Where is the leadership we have elected these people to provide? There has been little or no action on: bringing down our massive budget deficit, the imbalance of trade, the overly burdensome tax system, the sickly Social Security program, immigration reform, unemployment, failing schools, poverty and our continued dependence on foreign oil.

Have you ever tried to call your Senator’s or Representative’s office to ask for help? I have. The run-around I got finally made me give up trying to draw attention to a hazardous situation in my neighborhood. What do these people do all day besides conspire about how to win the next election by smearing the opposition? This isn’t governing – in fact, to my mind it borders on racketeering! And they play this useless political game day after day using our money. Shame, on the so-called “leadership” of the House and Senate who are supposed to guide their members into directions that help – not hurt – our country.

Yep, there ought to be a law.

The Institution is Tarnished

Let me ask you three questions: Has your elected official lived up to all the campaign promises he or she made? Do you feel that things will get better if we just give them more time in office? Is your congress person helping make this a better country in which to live?

If the answer to these questions is, “No!” then I want you to tear out this column and keep it in your wallet. Read it periodically, up and until the next election. Share it with your friends, family and neighbors and get them to realize that the political shenanigans that continue year after year in Washington happen because we let them happen. We voted in these knuckleheads. We can vote them out.

If You Want Change This is What You Need to Do

If you want real justice from government – a proper balance of bang-for-your-buck, we have to vote out the glad-handing, over-promising, congenial incumbents. They just are not getting the job done. We need to encourage a brand new type of candidate to step forward and bring their real-world experience in business, education, medicine, science and entrepreneurial innovation with them. Those who populate Capitol Hill should come from the real ranks of life – not from the privileged class of the career politician who have proven they are “incompetent” time and time again.

There ought to be a law but there isn’t. And our only power to change things is our vote.

Vote like your future depends on it because it does.




{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane Dimond June 24, 2013 at 7:37 am

ABQ Journal Reader Gary Keenan writes:

“Your column appearing in the ABQ Journal Saturday June 22, 2013, hit the nail on the head. The only short fall is the assumption that if we vote out the current crop of self absorbed idiots, we will find and elect new mature, caring politicians to take their place. I have no such faith in human nature. The type of person who is willing to run for public office is unique. I don’t know what the psychological profile is for that type, but conclude it is not good.
Even with persons who start out meaning well and wanting to do good, the reality is that the power and perks that come with the job corrupt all but the rare steadfast personality. In short, voting out the current crop is not the answer.
The answer is changing the constitution so that all members of congress get just ONE term in office. Say five years for a representative. Ten years for a senator. Then no more. Period. No more federal jobs for the balance of their lives, and no connected lobbying jobs either. Period. Their done. Go home and do something else. The lone exception would be someone who wanted to run for President.
While were changing the law, lets require that all members of congress shall pass no law that they themselves are not also subject to. Nor shall they pass any law that applies only to members of congress without that law also applying to the balance of the population.
In my humble opinion these steps cannot be done soon enough. Nothing will change until this happens. Oh, sure, we might get some people in who are willing to compromise in the future, but the lining of their pockets and the lack of real leadership won’t change. The hard issues will just keep hanging around waiting for a solution because anyone with a chance for re-election is not going to blow it by voting on a controversial bill that requires real change.”


Diane Dimond June 24, 2013 at 7:39 am

ABQ Journal Reader Joe Stehling writes:

Another great column, Albuquerque Journal, 22 June 2013. I go back to my oft repeated question: Is anyone listening and willing to do anything? It seems everyone loves their congressmen (except me) but hates congress. Until we get term limits, nothing will ever change.”


Diane Dimond June 24, 2013 at 7:40 am
Diane Dimond June 24, 2013 at 7:41 am

ABQ Journal Reader Bob McNall writes:

“Dear Diane

Nice piece about Congress. The same can be said about almost all politicians. The problem I see with Congress is; we like “our guy” and keep reelecting him or her, while we hate “their guy”. Others in the country don’t like “our guy” and crab and complain about all politicians except “their guy”. This will go on forever. Unfortunately there is not much we can do about “their guys”. People need to catch up on people, like yourself, who give us the straight scoop.”


Diane Dimond June 24, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Twitter Pal judgematty writes:

“@DiDimond Thank you, Diane. This Congress is an embarrassment to our proud history. Great article!”


Diane Dimond June 24, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Facebook Friend Jeff Davis writes:

“Good work, Diane! I have a commentary that airs this week about the fact that they don’t read the bills they pass, as if it’s someone else’s job. Meanwhile, no one is doing the job they were hired to do. It’s called “Governing By Rote.” BY ROTE.mp3 “


Diane Dimond June 24, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Facebook Friend Ghg Mitte writes:

“That is absolutely true Jeff. When began working in governmental affairs,was stunned at how little legislators prep before voting on bills, how little independent research they do. Leaves them dependent on lobbyists with agendas and their set of “facts”, not to mention less resistant to influences that do not serve the greater good. This is especially true at the state house level, where research resources and staff support are often limited.”


Diane Dimond June 24, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Jeff Davis Answers:

“From top to bottom Ghg, the government is a massive, feckless blob of disorganization. The amount of waste is astronomical, the gross inefficiency is staggering and there doesn’t seem to be anyone who will call it what it is: criminal negligence. And party allegiance is meaningless unless one wishes to choose a favorite “bad actor.””


Diane Dimond June 24, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Ghg Mitte Answers:

“Agree Diane and Jeff. It is exactly as you say, “defrauding” and ” criminal negligence” – in agencies as well as Congress. GREAT PIECE DIANE. Let’s brainstorm on solid remedial plans of action because we’re looking too much like the rampantly corrupt and decaying Roman Empire – with crucial differences – that enable us in ways we should utilize.”


Diane Dimond June 24, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Facebook Friend Carol Garland writes:

“How do you define competency? Passing laws is not competency because every new law restricts our freedom. I might regard them as competent if they repealed a bunch of them but that’s not going to happen any time soon. The fact is, the country is polarized so the Congress is polarized. And if my congress-critter did what he promises to do, I’d have to move because he’s a damned and damnable fool who thanks government is the solution to everything. Maybe the problem is that everyone has forgotten the notion of LIMITED government on which this country was founded and we now expect the federal government to do things it shouldn’t.”


Diane Dimond June 24, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Twitter pal ThomasCass9 writes:

“@DiDimond There is (something we can do): It’s called an election. Only most people don’t bother to vote or vote mindlessly.”


Diane Dimond June 24, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Twitter pal TTodd070603 writes:

“@DiDimond Yes. We have lost our government to those in power who care not for the will of the people, but serve the will of special interest.”


Jim Reynolds June 25, 2013 at 6:05 am

Another “slam dunk/home run” piece from the unparalled “Queen of Investigative Reporting’. The partisan politics schism that exists today isnt going to get too many voted out unless the press provides the public with an abundance of empiracle evidence of the malfeasance, misfeasance, or nonfeasance of an elected official to the point where folks would be embarrassed to admit they voted for the knucklehead. Term limits are the best feasible option — 2 3-year terms with 1/3 up each year. Also, institute a “pay-for-performance” system– year 1 $75k; year 2 $135k; year 3 $175k if metrics are met re: % of vote participation, time in session attendance, committee participation. etc


CLS June 25, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Interesting article! The last time I tried to contact my senator, it was in regards to stopping an inappropriate bill. I fully expected to met with the usual silence. Instead, I received a very nasty email. I’m not sure who sent it, but you can only imagine my restrained-but-terse response.

That said, I think a two-year term limit would be one solution. Another solution is better transparency of where taxpayers’ money goes and which lobbyists are helping our representatives and senators line their pockets. Congress should also be required to vote on laws that impact both the population at large AND themselves. Oh. One last solution. Congress should not be allowed to vote for their own pay raises.


Diane Dimond June 29, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Innovative Journalism Connection RW Nye writes:

I think that what we really need is a parliamentary system with proportional representation, at least for the House of Representatives, that would put an end to the two-party system. The great thing about our Constitution is that we can amend it.”


Diane Dimond July 7, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Huffington Post Reader jba groomr writes:

“I have been saying the same thing for years, way to go Diane. I
hope people will listen and finally change the Congress as a
whole. We need new blood in there, time to clean house and get
rid of the old!”


Diane Dimond July 7, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Huffington Post Reader Old School Politics writes:

“The one thing I notice is how the Politicians talk about Washington not doing this or that as if Washington is an invisable person or something. They don’t even realise that they are talking about themselves.Its amusing how all of them place blame on a non-human object.This way they stay in office because you can’t fire something that’s not real. Lets change the way we allow them to do this and put faces on washington so we know who to fire.We have to change their policies to reflect our values and enable us to vote accordingly.Then we can have real DEMOCRACY by the people,for the people.”


Diane Dimond July 7, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Huffington Post Reader LRobb writes:

“We have exactly the Congress the voters want. Not a one of its members suddenly showed up at the Capitol Building in a puff of magic smoke. They came via an election where they were approved by a majority of their residents who bothered to vote.

Not only that, but most members of Congress have a fairly high approval rating by their own constituency. While we hate everyone else’s representatives, we seem to love our own and re-elect them repeatedly.

Legislative paralysis is a result of our nation’s toxic polarization. Our toxic polarization is a result of people over the last 35 years moving to places where they feel most comfortable–as in their neighbors mostly think and live the same way. (Bill Bishop “The Big Sort). It is also caused by our ability to see, hear and read only that with which we agree 24/7/365. Neither of these phenomena are going away. If anything, they will only get worse.

About the only way we can now fix what is rapidly becoming a completely dysfunctional federal government is to return the responsibility for everything except defense, foreign relations and some treasury functions to semi-autonomous and ideologically similar regions made up of several states each.”


Diane Dimond July 7, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Huffington Post Reader Carol Bannon writes:

” You would think with the salary they receive (not to mention the benefits they get) they would at least be able to READ BILLS before voting….oh wait, that might be asking too much from them.”


Diane Dimond July 7, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Huffington Post Reader separatingwheatfromchaff writes:

“We do have a law against an incompetent Congress,it’s called the Constitution.What’s missing is someone to enforce it.”


Diane Dimond July 7, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Huffington Post Reader wildman11 writes:

“A good start would be to throw out all who voted to ram Obamacare – a program that will cost us trillions of dollars – down our throats even though the majority of us don’t support it. The lies they told us should be reason enough.”


Diane Dimond July 7, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Huffington Post Reader xswqazxsw writes:

“i would rather have an incompetent congress thats just spending a billion than an incompetent president that is spending trillions.”


Diane Dimond July 7, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Huffington Post Reader ennis438 writes:

“When members of Congress act for special interests and against the people they are supposed to represent, then you have an incompetent Congress. And that is exactly what we have now.”


Diane Dimond July 7, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Huffington Post Reader frank1946 writes:

“DO NOT Invest in a Nation State that cannot draft and pass a Annual Budget !

Debt is not Wealth.

America Gone Loco ?”


Diane Dimond July 7, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Huffington Post Reader jdo1958 writes:

“Don’t blame senators and congresspersons, blame us. We keep electing them.”


Diane Dimond July 7, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Huffington Post Reader Glory writes:

“I agree with you, most of congress and senate are way over paid, and we the people need to make some noise about it, sooner than later. This really needs to stop.”


Diane Dimond July 7, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Huffington Post Reader AmPm62 writes:

“In addition to a swearing to a Oath of Office :
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God”
They have 18 responsibilities Article 1 Section 8,. Over the past few years, Congress Has not carried out these responsibilities. For Example #16 Disciplining the Military.25,000 incidents of assaults on fellow military brothers/ sisters, doesn’t sound like Congress has carried out this responsibility. #8 To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, Doesn’t look like introducing laws based on religious dogma is promoting science #4 to establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, doesn’t look like the new immigration bill, if passed will follow the laws now in effect and #1 to pay the Debts, how by refusing to raise the debt ceiling? Congress, a sham and a shame….”


Diane Dimond July 7, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Huffington Post Reader gerimd writes:

“And the irony is they spend most of their time on fundraising!”


Diane Dimond July 7, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Huffington Post Reader NothingChanges writes:

“I personally do not believe that Congress is “incompetent”.

Corrupt to the core maybe,

but not “incompetent”.

IF you don’t sell out to big money for campaign cash, you don’t make it on the ballot, much less get elected in this country.

When we finance our elections by what amounts to State sanctioned, Legalized, Bribery?

We get the best government Big Money can buy.”


Diane Dimond July 7, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Huffington Post Reader Blackjeepster writes:

“Right on target, but voting doesn’t work anymore. The system is rigged with gerrymandered districts and party control over candidates and primaries. That’s why nothing gets accomplished.

Congress doesn’t have to do anything — except provide the usual legislative payoffs to the lawmakers’ campaign contributors — so they mostly do nothing. We need some kind of extraordinary event or movement to force the political establishment to suspend itself long enough for someone — a blue-ribbon commission? — to rewrite the Constitution and streamline the government, especially Congress. Unless we get some kind of drastic action, the nation will just continue in its downward spiral into a Third World society controlled by a police state. You can see the beginnings of it already.”


Diane Dimond July 7, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Huffington Post Reader donarden writes:

“Yes, there should be a law. . . . One of our Idaho senators recently told a local newspaper columnist how much he loves his job as senator. Then he said that he can’t explain to you how dysfunctional it is back there. When asked about all the time taken off by the Senate he said that there’s nothing happening when we’re back there and there’s nothing happening when we’re not back there, so what’s the difference.

These are just two of his pearls of wisdom! For this, we’re paying him good money!!?”


Diane Dimond July 7, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Huffington Post Reader ErikKengaard writes:

“I wouldn’t say they are incompetent. Incompetent people don’t get elected to office.
On the other hand, they do spend a lot of time working on winning the next election, and for that they need money spent on their behalf. Enter the special interests, and the true character of many members of congress: the result (over simplified) is a battle between serving the public interest to get votes, and serving the special interests to get money to get votes. Incompetence is not a factor. Greed and amorality are.”


Diane Dimond July 7, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Huffington Post Reader JaydensMimi

“Yes they are incompetent. If they are not performing as the job describes they are incompetent. The 112th and 113th Congress is the worse I’ve seen in my adult life. I’ve never seen such dissension and ignorant behaviors/attitudes at a time the country is dealing with some MAJOR crises, but they appear not to be interested in what happens to us, but I bet if you cut the salary/perks they would get busy, busier than a cat covering up s&#*. If any of us were to display the same approach to our work responsibilities we would have had a pink slip 5 yrs ago. So far all I have seen is a group of people arguing and pointing fingers and arguing and filibustering, and acting like sandbox toddlers. And that’s competent…….really?”


sfcrimereader August 31, 2013 at 3:38 pm

The problems really began with the passage of the income tax. Prior to that, the federal government had to apportion taxes among the states according to their population– which meant that citizens of a heavily populated state had to pay a proportionately larger amount of the total tax than citizens of a sparely populated state. If, say, a state’s population accounted for 20% of the overall population, it had to pay 20% of the tax, whereas a sparsely populated state with only 3% of the population had to pay only 3% of the tax.

Thus, congressmen were fiscally accountable to their constituents. If a congressmen from a populous state voted for a tax increase, his constituents would have to pay their proportionate share of that increase– and if they didn’t like that, they were likely to vote him out of office in the next election.

The income tax– which is independent of population– effectively eliminated that fiscal accountability. A congressman from a poor but populous district could vote to “tax and spend” with impunity, knowing that HIS constituents, being poor, would not have to bear their proportionate share of the tax, and that he ran no risk of being booted out of office.

And things have been going downhill ever since.


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