Congress is frozen by specail interests
To understand why it is so difficult to pass any meaningful energy and global warming laws in congress please read the article below about Washington's politics. It is so sad for the nation to be frozen in Congressional immaturity. It hurt us all, but benefit the few.
Although we know it, and I commented about it before, this article is very revealing how the power of special interest blocks what we need as a nation. Note also the mental games and juvenile behavior of many Congresspersons. It also shows what a powerful and skillful president can do to overcome Congressional inaction. President Obama is either unwilling to risk it, or unable to muster the courage to fight harder. His approach of leaving it to Congressional action does not work.
"For today's legislators, short-term pain for future gain is a nonstarter."
From the Editor: We Need Some Carpenters
By: Jim Toedtman | Source: From the AARP Bulletin print edition | March 1, 2010
Angrily, President Lyndon Johnson went west late in 1964. For the third straight year, Congress had failed to enact a comprehensive health care plan for older people, and he pointedly blamed Republicans and conservative Democrats.
At a California rally, he shared an important Texas truth: "Any jackass can kick a barn down, but it takes a carpenter to build one." Nine months later, Congress enacted Medicare.
Four decades later, it's time for another generation of carpenters. Now it's less about revamping the nation's health care system and more about reconstructing our polarized and paralyzed political system. In fact, the federal government seems incapable of making any tough decisions. Grand compromise is a forgotten art. Short-term pain for future gain is a nonstarter. Instead, Capitol Hill politics has become a prelude to combat, when it's supposed to be about problem-solving.
Consider the forces at play:
Election year politics. All 435 House seats and 33 in the Senate are up for grabs. Recent Republican victories have energized Republicans and frightened Democrats. Now both are preoccupied with scoring talking points.
Capitol Hill politics. Members have long memories. Democrats and Republicans both carry grudges from when the other party had the majority. After closed meetings, ignored requests, insulting attacks and presumed slights, it's payback time. All this while American soldiers are losing their lives, 14 million people need jobs, and 30 million lack adequate health insurance.
Special-interest money. The Center for Responsive Politics tracks campaign contributions and lobbying spending on TV ads, town hall rallies, mailings and back-room arm-twisting. With health care reform on the agenda in 2009, no organization spent more on lobbying than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($144.5 million), which successfully opposed mandating employer-provided health insurance and closing a business tax break for health expenses. AARP, which does not contribute to political campaigns, spent $21 million on federal lobbying. The insurance industry, which spent $166.4 million in campaign contributions and lobbying last year, successfully opposed a single-payer system and minimized cuts in Medicare Advantage plans. Trial lawyers, whose contributions and lobbying totaled $63 million, blocked limits on medical malpractice lawsuits.
When Democrats proposed expanding Medicare to people between 55 and 65, hospitals and doctors, whose 2009 campaign and lobbying expenses totaled $200 million, targeted key senators and blocked it. With the nation's obesity problem in mind, another plan would have added a 3-cents-a-bottle excise tax on soft drinks and sugar products. But the food and beverage industry spent $30 million, a 50 percent jump from its 2008 spending, and killed it.
Health care legislation is never easy. But the current battle exposed a larger problem. Today, it's the house of politics and government that needs reconstruction. Bring on the carpenters.
There's plenty to do.
Jim Toedtman is editor of AARP Bulletin.
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