Why So Little Gets Done in Congress

The current “popular” reason why so little gets done in Congress is the wide polarization between the Democrats and Republicans, and that’s certainly a major factor, but I’d submit that there are other reasons that are just as important, if not more so.

The first is that the benefits of doing anything for the public good always take time to happen and often longer for people to recognize and appreciate them, while the negative impacts usually recognized and trumpeted widely and instantly by those affected. That’s why it took decades for legislation eliminating leaded gasoline and lead-based paint to be enacted. Lead in gasoline was a cheaper way of allowing gasoline refiners to market lower octane gasoline that worked in cars. Without using lead, refiners needed more highly refined and/or other more expensive additives. The same was true of lead paint. The benefits of “deleading” were spread across society, but benefitted the poor the most, while the costs were concentrated across a comparative handful of companies and industries, all of which had greater wealth and political power.

Dealing with environmental issues has run into the same difficulties.

Another problem is that some problems have no “good” solutions, because any financially and physically workable system will hurt many innocents. Yet the longer such problems persist without being addressed, the worse the problem becomes.

Immigration is one of those proems facing the United States. First, there’s no financial, military, and physically feasible way to halt all illegal immigration without becoming a police state along the lines of East Germany or North Korea. Walls don’t work, and deporting millions of border-crossers on a continuing basis becomes a huge financial and resource burden. Much of the problem lies in the fact that for many would-be immigrants, ANYTHING is better than remaining where they are, but to change those conditions in Central America and elsewhere would require essentially invading and rebuilding the socio-political structures in those lands, which would require resources and an effort that neither the regimes of those countries nor the American taxpayers would support. A “middle-ground” of allowing certain immigrants who would benefit the United States and absolutely rejecting the others would mean rejecting innocent people who merely want a chance at a better life. At the same time, failing to address the problem with clear-cut policies and laws will insure that the problem will worsen.

And the bottom line is that most politicians wish to avoid pain at a time when workable solutions will cause immediate pain for those with resources and votes.

9 thoughts on “Why So Little Gets Done in Congress”

  1. R. Hamilton says:

    Regardless of very real problems for millions in many places, we do not have magic infinite wealth nor infinite space nor infrastructure. We CANNOT handle them all under any of the false excuses of compassion, building a new political base for one side (or another), or cheap labor. To pretend we can is at least as unrealistic as all the easy solutions you claim won’t work. (I submit that making it worse to come here illegally than to stay where they are WOULD work, but it wouldn’t be pretty by any means.)

    The difference vs East Germany etc was that their walls were to keep people IN, while ours would be to keep people OUT (not everybody, but down to a controlled flow). People have a right to leave unless they’re legitimately arrested or jailed, but except for returning citizens they have NO right to come except in compliance with our law (or some very limited (maybe tens of thousands per year maximum) number of genuine refugees, and not all but those relating to situations of particular concern).

    ANYTHING, no matter how many tens of millions of people are involved, can be altered with sufficient resources and/or force, the trick is to find the ways in which the least of either generates the greatest result.

    This does not rule out some carrot for those countries to make the stick taste better, if there’s any way to assure that it’s effectively applied and doesn’t fall into the hands of the corrupt governments and others that are probably profiting from the present situation.

    But a FEW tough problems aside (which the politicians of either party will mostly avoid while pretending not to), do-nothing government is not entirely a bad thing. Anything that’s done wrong or without sufficient attention to (un?)intended consequences is probably BETTER not done – even if some not too expensive good action might also be possible…but unlikely given that solved problems don’t sustain the pursuit of political, economic, or bureaucratic power.

    1. Postagoras says:

      You don’t like magic solutions to problems? Look in the mirror, buddy. It’s you.

      Politics is about finding solutions to problems through hard work and compromise. As Mr. Modesitt points out, it’s the Republican party which has become the Party Of No.

      Republican candidates campaign for Congress to become D-list celebrities, not to legislate. You might like the “side effect” of getting nothing done, but it pisses me off that they’re getting paid to do nothing.

      1. R. Hamilton says:

        Non-magic solution: use the hundreds if not thousands of school buses that are scheduled to be replaced each year to deport truly massive numbers. Enforce laws against employing illegals or giving them any incentive to remain. Block all out-of-country funds transfers by illegals, and deny them access to banking services. Doubtless other ways exist to make it less desirable to come here illegally.

        Probably not politically feasible given that too many here are (effectively if not directly) collaborating with those abroad to find a way to use the illegals to advance their own power. But that applies to every solution to everything as long as people continue to be willing to vote for either leftists that want global socialism or Chamber of Commerce RINOs to hold office.

        The fault isn’t about parties (although leftists are totally destructive to nationhood AND liberty), it’s that there are too many STUPID voters, and too many using or being used by either party to advance interests that are NOT those of citizens at large.

        So…settle tens of millions and help them assimilate? Is that really more feasible than deporting millions or using the mix of aid and force needed to fix where they came from?

        Phoenix is a mass of expansion and construction, mostly apartments, and because it’s seldom really cold still loaded with homeless. A lot of that is people coming from failed states like California, but however many tens of thousands of illegals (looking for work outside every Home Depot) there are are not helping; and there isn’t enough water to support the level of growth. Increasing population won’t help overburdened infrastructure anywhere, and government infrastructure spending is mostly wasteful boondoggle rather than real things; I’ve heard estimates that suggest $25 billion/year to upgrade the grid against (could be natural, not just weapons) EMP, and that’s probably less than the waste of a few bacon-rich earmarks. Some estimates of severe EMP caused outages have fatalities as high as 90% due to total breakdown of supply of food, water, fuel, medicine, and other essentials. That’s worth a lot more than bridges to nowhere and libraries named after congress-critters. And it keeps citizens alive rather than coddling invaders.

        1. Mayhem says:

          Lets ignore the elephant in the room, which is that most of the border state economies would literally collapse if you actually stopped using illegal migrant labour across the board to keep wages down.

          You do realise that most of your illegal migration comes from further away than Mexico right? Not only do they come from much of Latin America, but quite a few come overland from Syria and India via Africa and Brazil.
          I’m not sure exactly how your fleet of buses is going to be of any use other than to dump the problem back on Mexico, which has been US policy for 20 years anyway.

          The collapse of Venezuela as a functioning state has led to vast flows of people going both north and south – there are huge migrant camps throughout South America as well, including as far south as Chile. And Venezuela, like Haiti, is largely in its current state due to punitive US foreign policies.

          1. R. Hamilton says:

            The supply of excuses not to stop the migration is as vast as the number of migrants, but they’re still excuses. It boils down to incentives and disincentives (domestic as well as foreign), force, or deportation, or some combination of those.

            It remains that we cannot possibly accommodate all who wish to come here, not unless we’re willing to become 3rd world ourselves in both society and lifestyle, which I don’t think we have ANY obligation to consent to. Even the less palatable alternatives can’t be better than that, except for those who see their road to power via limitless sheep and/or cannon fodder.

            Maybe we need a domestic housecleaning to find the will to act in our own interests – if we have enough of our own remaining who aren’t committed to anything that will provide them lifelong handouts.

          2. Wren Jackson says:


            47% of US Land is unpopulated.
            Nearly 40% of US produced food is wasted and thrown out.

            The idea that we can’t support more, can’t do more.. It’s just blatantly wrong.

            Developing new areas would be jobs. Finding ways to handle the water shortages that would hit those new areas would be jobs and new research and advancement.

            We can and should do more and the idea that “we need to look out for ourselves” is a false excuse used to justify poor morals and selfishness.

          3. Wren Jackson says:

            Sorry for double post, but just wanted to point out.

            US population is 331.9 million according to google. So currently close to 332 million people are surviving on just 60% of our food growth, which means we can handle another 110 million before we even have to start worrying.

            And that’s without the reality that we could be growing in more places too with proper cultivation and effort.

  2. Tom says:

    According to Lincoln in the US the government is a “… government of the people, by the people, for the people …” perhaps help is on the way.


    … Since 2000, federal spending on civics education has been slashed by more than 90 percent to just $4 million a year — that’s around five cents per student annually … Only 47 percent of Americans can name all three branches of government (25 percent cannot name any), and more than half feel disaffected by our system of government and pessimistic about our democracy….

    How can they be so if they do not know the system of government? No statistics on members of US Congress: but, ‘The unheralded provision, which drew bipartisan support in the House and Senate, provides $23 million for K-12 civics education.’

    20 plus years to little, perhaps too late, and unlikely to be a success in a supposed “nation” where the education is left to school boards (not even the much hyped State governments and certainly not required by the Federal Government for our national interest).

    But hey! We are the Land of the Free … !

    1. KTL says:

      Tom, let’s add to that these details provded by the Huffington post on the Jan 6 rioter who occupies Pelosi’s office, Richard Barnett (aka Bigo). When questioned about his deep love for the constitution by the prosecuting attorney, he couldn’t describe/name the 3rd amendment, of which he said he loved it. Geez.


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