The 112th Congress and a lot of nothing
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In 1950, a largely unaccomplished lawmaker from Wisconsin, Sen. Joe McCarthy, alleged that Commie sympathizers were infiltrating the U.S. government and Hollywood.
"Communist subversion" was the claim; Red Scare, the aim. Televised hearings were held. Lives were ruined. No evidence of his accusations was found. McCarthyism, as it's now known, is a blight in American history. On a good day it's a parable. Otherwise, it's an embarrassment that a hysteria this dark happened in the glare of national limelight.
McCarthyism became deeply unpopular with the American public. Sen. McCarthy had a 35-percent approval rating in November of 1954. A month later the Senate censured him.
Yes, Sen. McCarthy - at his lowest point - was twice as popular as the 112th Congress, which now boasts a 17 percent approval rating.
But this 17 percent proves we are still "united" as a country. More than eight out 10 citizens can come together in mutual disdain for the overpaid, underworked body of suit-fillers loitering in our nation's Capitol.
The 111th Congress had the lowest approval rating in two decades. But now, even they can hold their previously most-despised heads up high - they averaged 25 percent.
The 112th ran on jobs and the economy, giving President Obama a famed "shellacking." And with a newfound majority in the House, the only thing they've done is pass "symbolic votes" making an abortion harder to get. So abortion - a procedure the majority of Americans will never need nor seek out - is what the House is singularly focused on preventing, all under the guise of getting government out of (some of) our lives.
Yes, the GOP has taken a hard right turn. Cap and trade? Health care insurance mandate? The EPA? Unpaid-for wars? Racking up a huge deficit? All are originally Republican ideas which Republicans are now against. And when I say "now against," I don't mean they are now for a more liberal alternative. The GOP is now for nothing. In French, it's called laissez-faire. In English it translates into "let it be" or "lazy." In American politics, it means "a do-nothing Congress none of us approve of."
The House cannot go any further to the right. America's top 1 percent has twice the net worth of the bottom 80 percent. Add to that - we don't even ask the uber-super-rich to pay much in taxes. Bloomberg News/Businessweek put it like this: "It may seem too fantastic to be true, but the top 400 end up paying a lower rate than the next 1,399,600 or so." And the House passed the Ryan Budget Plan (another symbolic vote), lowering taxes on the top brackets even more, shifting the burden to the rest of us and forcing seniors to "choose" their health care "options." This is a "plan" that still won't cut the deficit or balance the budget (but will raise the debt ceiling - hint).
The GOP tried to peg President Obama as a radical socialist when he really just turned out to be a moderate pragmatist. So now Congress has to be against everything a moderate pragmatist is for ... which ends up meaning their platform is - nothing.
Republicans like to say this country is right of center, which is akin to saying the average American child is slightly above average. They say this, but then they go way off to the extreme right "cut and run up the deficit" when in the House majority.
So if Congress can't go any further right and their approval rating has never been lower - how about turning in the other direction? The majority of Americans want abortion to be legal. Even more want the rich to have their taxes raised. We all want infrastructure. We all want Americans to have jobs.
We all want our seniors to have health care. We want fair laws and reasonable immigration. We tell pollsters, at least, that we are also moderate pragmatists. But somehow we've elected a group of do-nothings the know nothings would denounce as dogmatic.
The House of Representatives needs to start representing America and not just their rapidly-righter-facing ideology. Pyrrhic victories are not actually victorious for a country with a struggling economy.
The iconic illustration of the Great Depression depicts Americans somberly standing in breadlines. The iconic illustration of our Great Recession?
It's going to be GOP congresspersons on their government-funded Blackberry's tweeting jabs about the president on taxes - while in recess (of course).
Really, who are these 17 percent of Americans who approve of these people?
Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer and fill-in host at The Young Turks. Tina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.