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Archive | Voices and Views

There’s an alternative to the Imperial Presidency

V-Lee-Hamilton-webBy Lee H. Hamilton

 

In his State of the Union speech to Congress last month, President Obama drew widespread attention for pledging to use his executive authority to advance his priorities. He insisted he intends to act with or without Congress, and listed well over a dozen actions he plans to take by executive order.

Plenty of people were happy about this. The speech was applauded by pundits who have given up on Congress, and believe the only way to move forward is by strengthening the presidency. The present government is paralyzed, they argue. A stronger presidency would get Washington moving again.

Others are alarmed by this approach. The President, they say, is trampling on the constitutional separation of powers, and grabbing powers for himself that were meant to be shared with Congress.

The problem with this debate is that it’s missing a key part of the equation. Yes, our system needs a strong presidency. But it also needs a strong Congress. We are best off as a nation when the two consult, interact, and work together as powerful branches.

Every president in recent memory has expanded the power of his office and been accused of a power grab. They’ve had plenty of motivation to do so. The modern world demands decisive action. Americans tend to support presidents who act forcefully. Congress is complex and hard to work with.

Yet there are limits to this approach, because in the end there is no substitute for legislation. Executive orders lack the permanence and force of law, so they can be hard to implement and can be cancelled by a later president. They don’t benefit from consensus-building and consultation with voices independent of the President’s.

Consensus-building can’t happen in a vacuum, however. Without a strong Congress able to find its way effectively through the thickets of lawmaking, this President and his successors will surely continue to address the nation’s challenges on their own. The question is, how far down that road can we go before Congress becomes irrelevant, with too much power and too much potential for the abuse of power in presidential hands?

The march toward presidential unilateralism dangerously undercuts our constitutional system. Before we give up on the separation of powers, let’s try strengthening Congress. This may not be the easy route, but if we don’t take it, representative democracy itself is in doubt.

Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

 

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RF Festival threatens Chamber

We have received numerous responses to our article last week: RF Festival threatens Chamber with legal action. Below is just a sampling of comments we received through the mail, on our website, and on our Facebook page.

 

Keep Cedar Springs Red Flannel Town, USA

My sentiments are tangled in memories of living where we are in Cedar Springs for over 50 years.

The new generations didn’t know us when the Clipper Girls were with us; and when Gerald R. Ford, a future president of the United States, walked the parade with us year after year; or Emory Monroe on Red Flannel Day policed the sidewalks and traffic; or Tom Anderson in his bear skin coat, in all kinds of weather, called the names of parade participants; or we viewed 10 or more area high school bands playing and marching in the parade.

Just recalling these few events fills me with nostalgia of Red Flannel Town.

And, generations later, youth who have grown to adulthood, do not have these experiences to remember. They have their own, newer experiences, and rightly so.

I vote to keep Cedar Springs, Michigan, Red Flannel Town, U.S.A.

Very truly yours,

Lyle Perry Jr., City of Cedar Springs

 

What a joke

Please move the weekly articles regarding the childish underwear antics and aberrations between the City Council and the Red Flannel Festival Committee from the front page news. Please enter these as “Joke of the Week”!

Thank you,

Bob Robinson, City of Cedar Springs

 

From the editor: The current news articles are actually of a situation between the Cedar Springs Area Chamber of Commerce and The Red Flannel Festival. The City of Cedar Springs is not involved, other than two of their members being under recall for voting on a new logo to replace the old Red Flannel logo.

From George Follett (website) Cedar Springs always has been and always will be the Red Flannel Town. If the so called board seems to think otherwise then I suggest they take their festival to the new Solon Township hall. They have enough room. I was proud to say and brag I was from the Red Flannel Town. My how things change when they think they can be somebody. Myself and family missed last year and will not bother to attend another. I hope everyone is proud that they ruined a good thing!

 

From Trisha Dart (website) There are so many wonderful comments in support of the Chamber of Commerce. I am another who supports them. We are and will always be The Red Flannel Town. The RFF need to understand the perspective of the citizens of Cedar Springs. We are tired of the fighting. We want our community back with our slogan without questions. I grew up here and I want to raise a family here but I also want community. Stand tall Chamber in your decision. I support you.

 

From Cindy K. (website) Most people in the town know that the Red Flannel Festival is run by volunteers. What they don’t realize is that they have by laws that they must adhere to which state office terms. If the town does not like what the president of the Festival is doing and the board of directors they should get a copy of their by laws and see what can be done to remove them and to get some volunteers in there to ensure the well being of the towns legacy of being the “Red Flannel Town” and bring back harmony to our town regarding the City, the Chamber, the Library, and the Festival.
All of these organizations should be working together in the best interest of the town as a whole, thus enhancing all the organizations in Cedar Springs instead of giving us a Black Eye to the rest of the world!

 

From Nicole Snyder-Brinley (Facebook) So my 4 year old daughter and I are sitting at the table this morning eating breakfast. I was using the butter. She also wanted to use it. She said, “Let’s just share it. It makes more sense.” If my 4 year old gets the concept why can’t the Red flannel festival get it? Yes it comes down to what we all learned in preschool “SHARING IS CARING.”

 

From Kathy Bullen  (Facebook) Way to keep it classy Cedar. How embarrassing. If there were ever an example of how not to do things, the relationship between the Red Flannel Festival, Inc. and nearly everyone else would be it.

 

From Kelly Stewart (Facebook) Cedar Springs is the Red Flannel Town!! This needs to stop. Stop bringing such negativity to our Community. Sounds like it’s time for a new Red Flannel Festival Board and time to VOID that stupid trademark! It’s doing nothing but causing problems. This is not why Red Flannel was created!!!

 

From James Cheevy (Facebook) How embarassing that the city can’t even support the only thing the city has going for it. Keep bullying the festival, why would the volunteers want to continue to try to fight these people? I know I wouldn’t. Shawn, if its the city’s identity, then why did the Chamber file paperwork with the state? You knew what you were doing, and you knew what you were doing was wrong.

 

From Michelle Milzarski (Facebook) Legally “right”… Morally WRONG!

 

From: Cedar Springs Area Chamber of Commerce (CSACOC) (Facebook) Your Cedar Springs Area Chamber would like to make it very clear that, to date, we have spent nothing on attorney fees and we truly hope that it is not ever necessary.

 

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Chamber’s response letter to Red Flannel Festival board

Feb 3rd, 2014

 

RE: Response to January 28th, 2014 Correspondence

 

Dear Red Flannel Festival board,

I have received your letter dated January 28th, 2014 and it has been reviewed by our board members and to which we have prepared this 2 part response.

It is the Cedar Springs Area Chamber of Commerce’s position that the true identity and rightful owner of “The Red Flannel Town” is the community of Cedar Springs and has been since as early as 1938 many decades prior to the formation of Red Flannel Festival Inc. and certainly before any trade or service mark request could have been filed by them. Further, it is our position that when the request was filed to register “The Red Flannel Town” by the Red Flannel Festival Inc. that said application misrepresented to the licensing agency that their organization was its originating body and rightful owner. The Red Flannel Festival Inc.’s application for the service mark submitted to the State of Michigan on June 3, 2005 states that “The Red Flannel Town” was first used in commerce in Michigan on October 1, 1950. However, the CSACOC has obtained a copy of official Village of Cedar Springs Regular Meeting Of Village Council minutes dated December 1941 where “The Red Flannel Town” is clearly used in the title line as part of the Village’s identity. The CSACOC has also obtained photo evidence from “Life” archives of photos taken in 1942 depicting the use of “The Red Flannel Town” in commerce and on Village entry way signs.

The Red Flannel festival Inc. is a very important and essential part of Cedar Springs but the organization is exactly that, a part of the much larger community known now and forever as “The Red Flannel Town” and has no right to claim exclusive ownership of that identity.

The CSACOC would also like to make it clear that the title for the Christmas event ‘A Red Flannel Town Christmas, Come Mingle with Kris Kringle’ was so titled to accomplish two goals. These goals were to inform people where the event was, ‘Red Flannel Town’, and that Santa Claus would be there. It was never our intent to offend the Red Flannel Festival Inc. The CSACOC did register the event titles with the State of Michigan and only used the titles that were granted to us. While this is the official position of the CSACOC we would like to avoid legal action if at all possible and work with the Red Flannel Festival Inc.’s Board to resolve this matter. It has been stated by members of the Red Flannel Festival board that they want us to submit a request to their board for approval. In the interest of a quick resolution and to demonstrate our willingness to work with the Red Flannel Festival Board the CSACOC Board would like to submit the following request for their board’s consideration.

The Cedar Springs Area Chamber of Commerce would like to respectfully request that The Red Flannel Festival Inc. grant permission for all organizations, businesses, government agencies and private citizens to use the term “The Red Flannel Town” to positively promote, preserve and identify the Cedar Springs area as “The Red Flannel Town” with the understanding that no other business or organization shall claim or represent that they are exclusively “The Red Flannel Town” just that they are from, part of or promoting the community as such.

After attending the Red Flannel Festival Inc.’s Board meeting last Thursday, January 30 it is our understanding that submitting the above request will eliminate the possibility of legal action and that the Red Flannel Festival Inc.’s board will make a decision on this request collectively and respond. The CSACOC hopes that this matter can be resolved as soon as possible so that both organizations can put our efforts and energy back to our intended missions which are quite similar and could only be better accomplished but the CSACOC and the RFF working hand in hand toward them. We anxiously await your response and look forward to a long, prosperous and most of all positive working relationship going forward.

 

Sincerely, 

Shawn Kiphart

President

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Investing in roads

An investment we cannot afford to ignore 

 

Rob VerHeulen

Rob VerHeulen

By state Rep. Rob VerHeulen, 74th Distrtict

In his 2014 State of the State address, Gov. Rick Snyder laid out an impressive list of accomplishments made over the last three years. I share his enthusiasm and have supported many of his measures since I took office just over a year ago. However, one of his priorities remains unfinished and must be addressed: the condition of our roads.

A national transportation research group, TRIP, recently released a new study which placed the cost of deficient roads at $7.7 billion annually. The costs result from higher operating costs, traffic crashes, congestion and safety issues. The study also noted nearly 27 percent of Michigan bridges show significant deterioration or are currently not meeting safety standards.

According to the study, the average driver in Grand Rapids pays $327 per year in additional maintenance costs from tire alignments, flat tires, bent wheels or auto crashes. Virtually every expert agrees that failure to preserve our roads will lead to much higher costs in the future. Gov. Snyder uses the example of oil; you might be able to skip an occasional oil change without damage, but if you fail to perform routine maintenance on your vehicle the ultimate cost will be much higher.

The condition of our roads will also impact our ability to attract and retain jobs in Michigan. A recent survey of Michigan businesses suggest that employers look at the quality of a region’s transportation system when deciding where to grow their business. If we fail to address this problem soon, we may see Michigan’s best in the nation job growth rate drop as employers look elsewhere.

Michigan invests less per capita in its roads than its neighbors. The per capita investment in our roads is $174 per person compared to $187 in Indiana, $231 in Wisconsin, and $235 in Ohio and Illinois. Part of the lack of funding is that our 19 cent per gallon gas tax does not provide the revenue that it did historically. This tax is an excise tax based on each gallon of gas sold and is not based on the price of gas. Revenue from the gas tax peaked in 2001-2002 and has declined

each year thereafter. While it is a good thing that we are consuming less fuel due to increased fuel efficiency, increased use of public transit and other factors, this has created a funding issue for our roads.

In the current fiscal year, the Legislature was able to identify more than $250 million in increased investment from the General Fund. Last month the Michigan Department of Transportation announced road projects across the state. With the economy recovering and a “surplus” predicted for the next fiscal year, I am hopeful that we will be able to invest an even greater amount in our roads. However, it is estimated that we need to invest an excess of $1 billion to maintain our roads.

Michigan has many competing interests for its limited funds. Education, human services, community health, corrections, and natural resources are all important and compete for state appropriations. All benefit from making road funding a priority and one that returns value. Moody’s recently suggested that every additional dollar spent on infrastructure generates a $1.44 increase in gross domestic product.

When I met with groups of constituents I took a poll on how many believe we need to invest more in roads. The overwhelming majority say invest more. The challenge comes in finding the best method to fund our roads over the next decade and beyond. I will continue to advocate for making road funding a top priority and encourage all Michiganders to remind me and my colleagues that roads impact everyone in Michigan and are critical to our future success.

The 74th District encompasses the cities of Walker, Grandville, Rockford and Cedar Springs, as well as Solon, Tyrone, Sparta, Algoma and Alpine townships.

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The kindness of strangers

When I describe what it’s like growing up in Cedar Springs, I always mention the small town feel and how people seem to be looking out for each other. If you grow up in Grand Rapids, it’s a hard thing to understand and even describing it can be a challenge. However, if you have lived in Cedar Springs you know just what I’m talking about.

I have never had a serious situation where I truly required someone to look out for me but there is always a time when it is going to happen. This winter has been one of the toughest and coldest we have had here in Michigan and sometimes the elements can get the best of us. This year, those same elements got to me.

The snow drifts and ice combination on Sunday, January 19, had me sliding off the road and into the ditch. I was pretty shook up; after all it was my first time ever sliding off the road. I was in once piece and so was my car. The thing that surprised me the most was the amount of people who stopped to make sure I was okay. I realize this probably happens a lot but I can’t imagine anything like this occurring in Grand Rapids.

Many of the people who stopped offered to stay with me until my neighbor arrived to pull me out of the ditch. I sent them on their way but two gentlemen offered to get their tow rope and to come back to make sure I was out. They arrived soon after my neighbor did and quickly hooked everything up and had me out in no time.

I want to personally thank everyone who stopped to make sure I was okay. I also want to thank the two gentlemen who helped not only get me hooked up to get out of the ditch but also on helping me drive out. I also want to thank my neighbor who was quick on the moment to come and help me. A big thank you to everyone who stopped to check on me and those who helped get me out. If it wasn’t for you all, I would probably still be in that ditch!

 

Tanya Giaimo, Courtland Township

 

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A Year of Focused Commitment

_V-LevinBy Sen. Carl Levin

When I announced last March that I would not seek reelection in 2014, I said that I wanted to spend my time working on a number of serious challenges that Michigan and the nation face, rather than on reelection. As we begin the new year, I want to update you on the tests we faced in 2013 and where I believe we can move forward in the year ahead.

Among the tasks I mentioned in my announcement was my responsibility as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee to monitor and advance the end of our combat commitment to Afghanistan and to help the services, our troops and their families recover from the strains of more than a decade at war.

In two trips to Afghanistan over the last year, I have seen rapid and positive changes that are transforming security and daily life for the people of Afghanistan. Challenges remain, but our troops and our nation should feel a sense of accomplishment about what we have done there for our national security and for the people of Afghanistan.

In Syria, where severe repression has sparked a revolt against the dictator Bashar Assad, the use of chemical weapons by Assad’s forces against civilians shocked the world. With a strong U.S. push, international pressure pushed Assad into an unprecedented agreement to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons capability. That agreement is an advance for the security of the region and the world.

Pressure on another outlier country—Iran—has for the first time in decades provided at least some hope of progress. Late in the year, the United States and our allies reached an interim agreement that freezes Iran’s nuclear program and could set the stage for a final agreement that ends the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon. Like most Americans, I am skeptical of Iran’s leaders, but I believe this interim step should be given a chance to succeed.

As our involvement in Afghanistan recedes, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to give greater attention to tired military families and help the services rebuild military readiness that has been strained by war. But that opportunity will slip away if we do not address the continuing threat of budget sequestration.

Sequestration is the across-the-board, automatic spending cuts that slashed major funding from important domestic and national security programs in 2013. These cuts have closed Head Start classrooms; ended research programs to fight life-threatening diseases; and forced our military to ground fighter jets and cancel important training exercises. The budget agreement we reached at the end of 2013 reduces sequestration’s impact somewhat for the next two years and offers a bit of hope for an end to the cycle of crisis that has plagued Congress. But it does not touch sequestration for the following six years.

In the longer term, there is only one solution to the sequestration problem: We should replace these meat-ax cuts with a balanced deficit reduction plan. Any such plan must include additional revenue. I have introduced two bills that would close unjustified tax loopholes identified by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which I chair. These loopholes are the source of massive tax avoidance by highly profitable multinational corporations and wealthy individuals at the expense of middle-income families. I will continue searching for common ground with colleagues of both parties to work for a balanced replacement for sequestration.

We’ve made significant progress in recent years in building on Michigan’s manufacturing and technological excellence to enhance our state’s competitiveness and improve opportunities for Michigan workers. The growing strength of our auto industry as it emerges from its restructuring is just one result of these efforts. Michigan is an increasingly important hub for development of green-energy technologies in vehicles and other fields. The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, a groundbreaking nuclear research facility being established at Michigan State University, reached important milestones. I’ll keep working in the year ahead to strengthen our foundation of economic competitiveness.

The last year was a difficult one for our state’s largest city, Detroit. I and other members of the Michigan delegation have worked to do all we could to make sure that the city has access to all available federal resources to assist in its recovery, and I’ll continue to look for ways to help.

There is no question this year will be a challenging one. My final year in the Senate will be one of focused commitment to the job I was sent here to do.

Carl Levin is the senior U.S. senator from Michigan.

 

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Trust … but definitely verify

V-Lee-HamiltonBy Lee H. Hamilton

 

Of all the numbers thrown at us over the course of last year, one stands out for me. I fervently hope we can avoid repeating it this year. That number is 12. It’s the percentage of Americans in a December Quinnipiac poll who said they trust the government in Washington to do what is right most or all of the time. It’s a depressingly small number, especially compared to the 41 percent who say they “hardly ever” trust the government. On top of that, a few months ago an AP poll found that fewer than a third of Americans trust one another. The poll’s message is clear: our society is in the midst of a crisis in trust.

Trust is essential to our political system and our way of life. The belief that people and institutions will do what they say they will do is the coin of the realm in our society. It is what allows people to work together—in their daily interactions with others and in their communities, legislatures and Congress. Negotiation, compromise, collegiality, and the mechanisms our complex and diverse society depends upon are impossible without trust.

You could argue that we see all around us the results of our trust deficit. Government dysfunction, an economy performing below its potential, public officials’ scandals and misdeeds, trusted institutions’ willingness to skirt the law and standards of good conduct, our social safety net under attack because people mistrust recipients—all of these speak to a society struggling as trust weakens.

Yet here’s the question. Do the polls match your experience? In my case, they do not. Trust is still a big part of my dealings with institutions and individuals, most of whom are good people trying to live a decent life and to be helpful to others. Trust may have weakened, but most of us do not see or experience a corrupt America. A sense of community remains crucially important to make this country safe and secure for ourselves and our children. Events in recent years have given us plenty of reason to be distrustful. Clearly, healthy skepticism is warranted in the wake of the NSA revelations and other evidence of government and corporate misbehavior. In the end, however, “trust but verify” is still the golden standard. Our ability to function and move forward as a society rests on trust. Think about it.

Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

 

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Resolve to create a better retirement financial plan in 2014

Vonda VanTil

Vonda VanTil

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

 

Another New Year is just around the corner, offering a new opportunity to improve your life in any number of ways with a wise New Year’s resolution or two. (No doubt, for most of us the possibilities are endless.)  One good idea for many might be creating (or updating) a long-term financial plan.

According to a 2013 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, “the percentage of workers confident about having enough money for a comfortable retirement is essentially unchanged from the record lows observed in 2011.” Only 13 percent are very confident of being able to afford a comfortable retirement, while 28 percent are not at all confident.

If you are among those with lower financial confidence and you haven’t started to save for retirement already, now is the time to begin—no matter what your age. If retirement is near, you’ll want to jump into the fast lane right away. If you’re younger and retirement seems a lifetime away, it’s still in your best interest to begin saving now, as compound interest will work to your advantage. Experts agree that saving when you’re young will make a world of difference when the time comes to draw on your retirement savings.

Don’t take our word for it. You can check out the numbers yourself. A great place to start figuring out how much you will need for retirement is to learn how much you could expect from Social Security. You can do that in minutes with Social Security’s online Retirement Estimator.

The Retirement Estimator offers an instant and personalized estimate of your future Social Security retirement benefits based on your earnings record. Try it out at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

Vonda VanTil is the public affairs specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp St NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov  

 

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City needs a leader with common sense

The Cedar Springs Post welcomes letters of up to 350 words. The subject should be relevant to local readers, and the editor reserves the right to reject letters or edit for clarity, length, good taste, accuracy, and liability concerns. All submissions MUST be accompanied by full name, mailing address and daytime phone number. We use this information to verify the letter’s authenticity. We do not print anonymous letters, or acknowledge letters we do not use. Email to news@cedarspringspost.com, or send to PostScripts, Cedar Springs Post, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319.

 

_________________________________________

Dear Editor,

I have lived around the Red Flannel Town for 80 years now, and was a resident of the city around 30 years in that time span. I have no voting power now, so maybe I can look at the machinations going on more objectively.

I do not know the council members personally and Mr. Truesdale slightly. When reading his letters to the public in prior editions of the Post, my reaction? Wow! What a great thing to keep the citizens informed, regardless!

Cedar Springs needs a leader with plain old common sense. I’m not a common sense type of person, but have enough wisdom to realize that to run a successful city, business, or anything, common sense is a requisite of great value.

Mr. Truesdale would have made a very, very good Mayor. He is honest and blessed with common sense.

Council take heed of one comment in the meeting and have no more of “underhanded dealings and slipping things in at the last minute.” This is not the most ethical way of business.

There was a comment as a reason for not voting for Mr. Truesdale. The reason came from a piece of gossip: “Mr. Truesdale didn’t believe women should be on the council.” It does give one pause. That’s a good reason?

To the mayor and council members, for the good of the city, everyone stop the pettiness. Please!

 

Alice Powell, 

Solon Township

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Congress still isn’t being responsible

 

V-Lee-HamiltonBy Lee H. Hamilton

 

Congress is winding down its historically unproductive session with a small flurry of activity. It’s a welcome change, but so long overdue that it can’t possibly make up for what should have been accomplished on Capitol Hill this year. The problem is that for too long, members of Congress have been working hard at everything except the one thing they should have been working hard at: legislating. They’ve been so unproductive that they’ve actually threatened our world standing and our domestic well-being.

To be sure, they are moving incrementally. Gridlock is breached, but not broken. The likelihood is that Congress will pass a defense bill. It reached a small-scale budget agreement that undoes a bit of the damage caused by the sequester. It is finally starting to work through a list as long as your arm of judicial and executive-branch confirmations, but only because Senate Democrats decided they had to change the rules if they wanted to fill long-unfilled government appointments.

Yet, the list of what Congress hasn’t done is sobering. There’s no food-stamp reauthorization or waterways construction bill. It passed a one-month extension to the farm bill, but that falls far short of the certainty this crucial economic sector needs. There’s no lasting solution to the debt-ceiling problem. Almost nothing has been done about the fundamental gap between taxes and spending. It has left unemployment benefits unresolved, immigration reform unresolved, tax reform unresolved, and action on climate change unresolved. This lack of productivity makes me wonder if Congress can address truly hard challenges without a crisis before it.

Mind you, some legislators take pride in how unproductive Congress has been. They argue that the less the government does, the better. But given Congress’s pathetically low standing in the polls, it’s clear that most Americans don’t agree. They don’t like incompetence, as their response to the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act suggests, and they really don’t like people who dodge their responsibilities, which is what Congress’s ineffectiveness amounts to. Unlike many members of Congress, Americans seem to understand that things that ought to be done are not getting done, and that there are real costs to inaction.

We’re in a competitive race with China for world leadership, and whether we like it or not, others around the globe are comparing our two governments. The attractiveness of the American model is under challenge, and our political dysfunction is a serious handicap. As the Wall Street Journal put it recently, a superpower that isn’t sure it can fund its government or pay its bills is not in a position to lead. And, because problems aren’t getting addressed, others are stepping into the breach at home, too—but with less transparency, less accountability, and less flexibility.

The Fed is doing the heavy lifting on the economy. The Supreme Court is essentially legislating. Executive branch agencies are trying to handle massively difficult challenges through executive orders. State and local governments have decided that even on issues they can’t truly address effectively, like immigration, they’re on their own.

When asked about all this, congressional leaders tend to blame the other house, arguing that they’ve done their best but the other side has bottled up their efforts. All I can say is, finger-pointing is not an excuse, it’s an admission of failure. A leader’s responsibility is to enact legislation, not just get a bill through the house of Congress he or she controls.

Legislating is tough, demanding work. It requires many hours of conversation about differences, commonalities, and possible solutions. It demands patience, mutual respect, persistence, collegiality, compromise, artful negotiation, and creative leadership, especially when Congress is so divided.

Yet, when Congress meets only episodically throughout the year, when it often works just three days a week and plans an even more relaxed schedule in 2014, when the House and Senate give themselves just one overlapping week this month to resolve huge questions of public policy, you can only come to one conclusion: They’re not really willing to work hard at legislating. A last-minute flurry of bills offers hope, but it’s going to take a lot more work to convince the country that Congress knows how to live up to its responsibilities.

Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.
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