Most of us have read or heard the majority of words being used to describe the current U.S. Congressional Session; during the 113th biannual meeting of the elected government's legislative representatives to the people, which gathers in Washington, D.C. every other year for the first of two sessions on January 3, and has been doing so since 1934. Some of those words include, "do nothing, partisan", and "gridlocked". A better way to describe the pace and quantity of work done by Congress over the past year and a half might be "do I really have to?" What a huge difference a half a century makes in the world of politics and power.
John F.Kennedy was able to use, by his will alone, his personal strength and courage to achieve one of the greatest feats in the history of mankind: reaching another celestial body, and exploring places that our species has never encountered. William Jefferson Clinton found the path to a balanced budget in the 20th century, following a period of unprecedented military spending.
While the will to improve is inside each of us, the drive to do the work necessary to make that happen is not quite as easily found as saying we want to have better. The same can also be said for the 113th Congress. The courage that those two presidents were able to show to the American people enabled the U.S. to return to another moment of greatness. I agree that success is good; and I also believe that success that leads to a new era is a much better outcome for everyone. As a reporter, like you, I could easily find myself bogging down as a result of the information age that I must navigate through to give you and other readers a concise and simple explanation that brings everything together, so that you can understand it, when I am writing about a specific subject.
Sources of all kinds do not present themselves on their own; whether it be a source for a news story, or a source of revenue for government to operate. The current Congress has the desire to lead us to a new era, but will they really do so? I'm accustomed to presenting solutions to current problems, and as far as our legislative branch of the Federal government is performing, I want to look at where we are, grade the 113th Congress, and offer constructive objectives which our representatives can strive for. If achieved, all the things that I speak of here offer us the chance to place America as the undisputed leader in technology, growth, and freedom.
113th Congress Pre-Election Report Card
- Math - D
- Science - C
- Language Arts - C
- Social Science - D
- Art - D
- Finance - D
- Sports - B
- Military Preparation - C
- International Affairs - C
- OVERALL - C
As I consider the work that Congress has done, and the report card that I created to represent my simple understanding of the quality and number of goals which have been reached by the current Congress, at first glance I thought "it looks like a report card for many high school and college athletes." Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy sports of all kinds. However, I don't think it is a very good sign, in terms of the way our government is presently functioning, when I can grade the way that Congress is treating sports of all kinds and have that subject be the best performing area for our Legislative Branch of government. Our sports over here in the United States are about as good as it gets, and I would give the Congress an A if everything was doing well enough that significant improvement would not be needed quickly. But, I digress from the "heart and soul" of what I have to say about the matter.
Room for Improvement - Lacks a Sense of Urgency
The urgency that John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton projected, to those around them, made them both highly likely to succeed at being the President of the United States of America. Of all of the present shortcomings of the current Congress, there seems to be little lack of urgency to move the country into a new era. Change will occur anyway, whether or not we wish this to be the case. Because the Congress lacks the will to succeed and a sense of urgency to move the pace of work along, the culture is ripe for failure; and this Congress has failed on so many basic levels.
Partisanship is just another term for choosing to not join a group different than those you are comfortable with. Since most people have unique opinions, these opinions will rarely be identical from person to person. The more that you claim that you cannot compromise your own position, the greater your likelihood for failure.
Professional golfer Rory McIllroy is a great example of a person who is being adaptive. Considering McIlroy's recent success at winning the most prestigious of golf's most important tournaments, as of late, it would not have been possible for McIlroy to have reached a comparison to Arnold Palmer, or Tiger Woods, if the manner in which he does his work on the golf course was a method which did not draw on variety and versatility.
I have great confidence that our elected legislators here in the U.S. can individually make that choice to be flexible and open to new ideas. I have no doubt that Rory McIlroy will be using what he believes will be the best set of clubs he can work with the next time that he sets foot on a golf course. Similarly, Representatives in the House, and Senators, must begin the difficult work of tackling the mundane and ordinary, long before I would say that the Congress has done enough that it can take a break and deal with Social Studies. Consider the grade I gave these legislators, as a single group, in each subject that the Congress has attempted to tackle in the 113th meeting.
Math - D
Without the leadership of another strong figure to demand a balanced budget and a simplified set of laws to attract income to the government, the kind of growth that investors are seeking is not going to present itself. While 2% growth is not exactly the same as moving in reverse, it's almost like driving a car at 45 miles per hour on an Interstate highway that has a 65 M.P.H. speed limit. With a growth rate that low, it is not possible for the government to keep up with obligations that our nation places upon it. Yes, while that means that more revenue is necessary, tax rates must be lowered, and more individuals and companies must pay into our tax system. Government spending must be reigned in to grow at 5% to 6% less than the annual growth in the Gross Domestic Product of the U.S. If G.D.P. growth is at 2%, then government spending must come in somewhere to 93-95% of that 2% growth figure, which will move the country closer to a balanced budget. Balancing the budget will not be quick, but it must happen for the financial solvency of the U.S. Treasury.
Science - C
The United States continues to lead in the sciences as a whole, however, over the course of the past decade, Congress has chosen not to invest more in creating the technology that will drive a new era on earth. This will mean cooperating more, and not less, with those we disagree with. It is optimistic for me to believe that all countries are going to want to share all of their technology with each other, but each day brings a new possibility that we will all begin to start working more diligently to a future we can all enjoy. The choice to side with any particular political philosophy, as a measure to prevent growth in academia and science, is not really any different than 500 years ago when Copernicus, a Catholic, found his astronomical observations dismissed as ludicrous by the Holy Roman Catholic Church. The period 1942 to 1969 represented the greatest scientific advancement ever realized by the United States. Putting America back on top as one of the leaders in science is ultimately critical to not just long term economic growth, but perhaps to the survival of the human species.
Language Arts - C
For the first century of America's history as a nation, our people spoke with one language, and one common voice. Much as a choir can be not only clearly understood, but powerful when uttering the same lyrics in the same timing, speaking with one language, and one common voice, is important to the rediscovery of the greatness of American literature and writing. Were it not for the voices of Woody Guthrie, Mark Twain, and Bill Cosby, many of us perhaps would never have known of the power of the spoken and written word. Having a common voice allows everyone to contribute without strain. When we are trying to say the same thing and use thirty different languages spoken simultaneously to speak with, our voice is confused, and difficult to understand. Speaking and writing with one language, as a core part of American language, is critical if we wish to retain our own culture as well as to continue to have English recognized as the "world language of business". Rather than promoting multilingualism, stressing more unitary language usage will create clearer understandings of emotions, and speech, resulting in a less stressful communication environment; something that we can all agree upon. Choosing not to be carried in the direction of leaving the English language as the major tongue of people from America, I believe, is part of being an American; as American as an apple pie.
Social Science - D
Congress seems to have lost it's way when it comes to the sociology of being an American. For as long as I can remember, there are only two ways to be an American citizen in accordance with the time-tested history of the U.S. immigration system: you must either be born in the United States, or you must become a naturalized citizen. When Ronald Reagan signed into law the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, providing legal status to illegal immigrants who had entered the United States prior to January 1, 1982 who paid a fine and back taxes, as well as completed the compulsory naturalization educational courses to instruct immigrants about our government, our history, and the English language. Those permitted to remain in the United States could only do so if those requirements were met, and they had not violated any law of the United States, or any of it's individual states. During the 113th Congress, illegal immigrants have been permitted to stay without any requirement to even meet any of the standards set forth in the Immigration Reform and Control Act. Just adding bodies to the present social services load, school district sizes, and health care access points, without obtaining the financing necessary to acquire those services, and most certainly without seeking those finances from those who stand to gain the most, primarily those who say that they have entered the United States unlawfully so that they "can have a better life." I certainly don't need to tell you that I see no reason why I should have to pay for someone else's "better life" if the person benefiting is not being required to chip in on the cost of that life. Adding 20 million people to the responsibilities spelled out in the present financial circumstances in the U.S. is too many to absorb at once, and not feasible. While I do not have any issues with anyone to become a U.S. citizen and to have a right to live and work here, citizens should not be obligated with the costs necessary for those who wish to become a citizen to do so. If there is not enough income being generated from immigrants to offset the cost of their care, either they must pay more, or there must be fewer, or both of these options. Unfortunately, a real legislative budget does not have a moving target for final cost, and whatever can be borne should be, and no more. If there must be a fence that is 10,000 feet high along the U.S. border at all points to ensure that U.S. immigration laws are respected, then that is the way that it is going to have to be. American citizenship, ingenuity, and freedom are three things that should never be marginalized or cheapened. For now, we do not have open war in the streets as in Syria, Iraq, or in many parts of Africa. By applying greater control and more stringent entry requirements, we can grow our country with people who will, also, lead us all into a new era for America.
Art - D
The United States has, since it's founding, been known around the world as one of the leading promoters of arts and humanities; yet, in recent years, as our federal government seeks to take on a greater role and responsibility in the lives of persons who are not contributing financially to our educational and artistic components of our society, arts education and the promotion of the arts have suffered dramatically. Art is as much a part of humanity as our bodies, and a society that improves it's intellectual capacity and output remains on the cutting edge of human development. If we wish to truly improve our society in a wholesome and positive way, our Congress must be much more committed to providing the kinds of fiscal resources necessary for us to have access to the kinds of programs and offerings that improve the human mind, and spirit. For us to reach the next era, art must be an integral part of getting there.
Finance - D
When and if Congress decides that the budget must be balanced, it will occur. Those who are uninterested in balancing the budget are simply using other words to say that it is unimportant whether or not the U.S. is insolvent, or indebted to other countries who could pose a threat to the United States. For those incumbents seeking another term, any who are opposed to balancing the federal budget are not working in the interests of the taxpayers, themselves. I think that is what originally led to the event we now know in American history as "The Boston Tea Party."
Sports - B
While sports can make for both great exercise, and great fun, it can only be one aspect of life. Were the rest of the grades as good as the grade for our level of sports and competition, then we would have time to discuss the role of Congress in sports. For now, why don't we set this one aside until the other grades are improved.
Military Preparation - C
Our military expenses are too high for our results, and the kinds of military conflicts presently underway around the world suggest many changes are going to be necessary in order to improve U.S. combat readiness. The U.S. military needs to be far more agile, utilizing more technology, and many more special forces. In today's world, military actions must commence with little delay, and with the continuing threat of radical Islamic jihadists continuing to seek a religious war with western nations and societies, the Pentagon, through it's supporters on the Hill, should be acting far more aggressively to better match our force capacity and strength to most likely scenarios for periods of time more frequently, and for shorter duration. Placing more emphasis on a more specialized, technical, and more intelligent military means that our military members will need to focus on much more than just fighting; things like police tactics, techniques, and strategies are just as important as winning in any conflict. Until our military leaders decide that they want to focus on long term results equally with immediate actions, the overall picture of U.S. forces is not going to change significantly. Our military must change, and that change must begin when the U.S. Senate reconvenes on Monday, September 8, 2014.
International Affairs - C
The leader of the free world should not be scoring a C in international affairs, when the United States sets the standard for other countries to follow; specifically when it comes to diplomacy. While Secretary of State John Kerry is performing as well as he can, he is not going to be able to speak with the kind of surefooted tone that he needs right now unless our U.S. Congress stands behind him. Secretary Kerry is our Secretary of State, and if members of Congress do not wish to provide vocal support for his office in the waning weeks of the 113th Congress, perhaps things would be better left unsaid; for the benefit of all of us.
As we head out collectively to see our elected officials and candidates for public office all across America, whether it be in a town hall meeting, debate, or visiting with these political aspirants at county and state fairs, I hope that each of us can remember something important about America: the People of the United States must come before political parties, or particular positions. Creating a single direction for the U.S. Congress when it returns in September could be just the kind of boost our economy, and our country, both sorely need.