Thursday, August 9, 2012

John Thibault: Congress deserves a D, but my congressman gets an A!

  According to a recent poll the job performance rating of Congress continues to reflect a very low 7% positive job approval score. Why is that?

  Why do we accept such poor performance? Do we think if they did more, worked harder, longer, smarter, they'd get a better result?

  Do we want Congress to be more productive and pass more laws with more pages? Even now we learn that Dodd-Frank has 5,320 pages covering 400 new regulations. ObamaCare was a 2,700-page bill and so far has 13,000 pages of new regulations. Or do we want Congress to undo some of the old laws that we no longer like? Would we prefer Congress respond to issues that we think are important? Or did we elect our member to vote the way he or she wants?

  If the polls are right and 90% of Americans believe that Congress is doing a poor job, how can that be? Are we accepting mediocrity as the price of freedom? If we vote for the "best candidate" in our district, why are they so effective campaigning as a candidate and so ineffective as a member of Congress?

  Have campaigning and fundraising proficiency trumped their legislative ability?

  Ask yourself, why do we keep electing the same politicians if we get inferior results year after year?

  Is it because Congress is not performance-based?

  We know it is not a meritocracy. The best do not rise to the top. The best are not rewarded for their great behavior. Seniority rules… so incumbency attracts power. Power attracts position and campaign donations. Then position and donations are used to attract more support, votes and tenure.

  Maybe we're using the wrong metrics when we think about measuring Congress' job performance.

  If the pollsters are right and Congress is as bad as they claim, then each of us is responsible for continuing to elect poor performers to the Congress. Or are they accomplished people who are incapable of getting anything done because they have to continually convince a majority of their 535 peers?

  Whenever I have seen voters with their congressman they are always gushing - the voters not the Congressmen. They refuse to ask tough questions. They throw politically convenient softballs, which the congressman always has the answer to or he makes sure he can use artful circumlocution to wend his way out of a messy question.

  Constituents inevitably are very polite. They invite their friends to fundraisers. They are delighted to contribute to the campaign. They seem to be happy with a photo-op standing next to power. And they vote for the same politician over and over and over again.

  But when the polls come out, voters polled turn and complain that Congress is not doing its job. Well which is it? They are the doing the job we elected them to do or they are incompetent, economically illiterate, politically mendacious boobs?

  If we look at the Congress as a whole it may only be as strong as its weakest link. So, we need to identify the poor performers. They need to be voted out of office.

  In corporate America on an annual basis some companies cull 5%-10% of their lowest performing workforce. But if we did that can we expect superior performance from the entire body of Congress? Not if we keep electing the same incumbents for 5, 10 or 15 terms?

  I'm not advocating term limits here as some states currently have. This sometimes has the unintended consequence of taking good, seasoned politicians and pushing them out of office.

  But if we had a way to systematically look at the members of Congress, compare them one to the other on an independent basis and discover who falls into the bottom third, it should make it easy to figure out who should then not be reelected.

  Political party strategists focus on this but even poor performing incumbents with name recognition can still draw sufficient contributions to drown out a challenger's voice.

  So instead of supporting our congressmen and blindly awarding him or her an A and then complaining about the body of Congress by giving them a D, we should examine closely who our congressman is and ask a different set of questions.

  What is my representative's position on the issues that matter to me and what legislation has he sponsored? What committees or subcommittees does he chair? How much did he receive from his party committee, the DNC, the RNC etc? Who are his big donors? What percentage of his financial support came from outside his state?

  It might surprise you to learn that your district votes may be heavily influenced by media buys sometimes financed by out of state interests. Someone wants you to vote for the incumbent so you don't rock the boat. Who benefits from his incumbency?

  What success has your representative had? What has he done for you? What are his key issues and are his actions really improving your community, your business, your neighborhood and your congressional district?

  So if your representative deserves an A, give it to him, but don't tell the pollsters Congress deserves a D.

  Unless you are politically engaged, you may never understand how Congress earns a D while your congressman always gets an A.

  As Thomas Jefferson said, "We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate."

  So engage politically, and give your congressman an honest grade.

  About the author: John Thibault is the founder and CEO of iLobby. iLobby® connects you with other voters where you can debate critical issues, pool your resources and hire a lobbyist to represent you and your cause. Put simply, this is lobbying for small business and individuals. Find out more at John worked in Governmental Affairs at MCA and served as the first VP Marketing and Business Development at eBay and Financial Engines.

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