This is really the one that started me off cranky today. It's an article by Scott Neuman over at NPR about how horrible Congress is these days. It quotes (political scientist) Tom Mann, and historian Daniel Feller...I don't know Feller, but I'm of course a big fan of Mann, so you would think I'd be happy, not cranky, right?
Nope. Here's the problem. The quotes taken from Mann and Feller are all from history, about how far back you have to go to find an equally dysfunctional Congress. But there's basically nothing from either of them about what exactly is so bad about Congress right now. Obviously, Mann knows (as I noted in a post over at Plum Line today, he's the one who started talking about "nullification" in the context of Republicans refusing to confirm any nominations for some executive branch agencies). But Neuman isn't telling. Hint: the word "filibuster" is nowhere to be found in the article. It really does take a bit of doing to write some 750 words about Congressional dysfunction without mentioning filibusters or the number "60."
Meanwhile, the only real substantive discussion of anything Congress has done poorly in the article is provided by...Eric Cantor, who is allowed to complain about the "uncertainty" involved in the short-term extension for the payroll tax cut and UI benefits. As if Cantor, and House Republicans, are somehow passive bystanders to that outcome. You'll recall that the reason there's a short-term extension is that the House insisted on including extraneous measures intended to embarrass the president politically in their one-year extension; had Cantor and his conference really wanted a clean one-year extension, they certainly could have had it since that's what the president and the Senate were begging for. Not to mention that it was House Republicans who practiced brinkmanship throughout 2011, one of the few sort-of specific complaints Neuman does allow Mann to mention.
Nor is it clear why Cantor -- a solid conservative in the House leadership -- is "balanced" by Mark Warner, a moderate Democrat, who gets to talk about the budget deficit, which of course is assumed by Neuman's framing of it to be an obvious problem caused by Congressional dysfunction (as opposed to, say, a deliberate policy choice by Bush-era Republicans who placed low taxes over balanced budgets as a priority, or a deliberate countercyclical policy choice by Obama-era Democrats).
Congress right now is a mess. But you wouldn't know why, or else about that, from Neuman's article, even though one of his sources is one of the leading experts on the subject. It's just an awful job. And made me cranky.