The Dysfunctional Congress – Something in the Water?



Americans have started the 21st century with a novel and unexpected realization: their Congress is dysfunctional.

Maybe I should have tried to sweeten the pill. After all, it is traumatizing to accept that the legislative body of the world’s number one military power has behavior usually associated with people ravaged by alcohol, drugs or deviant sexual urges.

But it is a fact widely recognized by most everybody, so I suggest we just accept it and move on to try to make some sense of it. Failing which, one must be forced to attribute the odd behavior of members of Congress to alcohol, drugs or deviant sexual urges.

Now I’m sure many of you are tempted to consider the matter as “case closed” right now but I will summon my last iota of faith in American institutions and try to find justifications less offensive and demeaning.

It won’t require much effort because I actually do believe such justifications exist. Stay with me, if you will, and follow my reasoning.

Let’s start with an apparently unrelated matter. From all the problems a society can face, which ones should be considered “Big Issues” and which ones, although relevant, definitely are not a matter of life or death?

I have (with some malice, I confess) elaborated a list of issues, as follows:

Famine / same sex marriage / war with other nations /the right to carry guns /widespread civil unrest /tax rates / a pandemic / the inclusion of creationism in school curriculums.

I ask the reader to write down which of these issues qualify as “Big Issues”. Take your time, think well… Finished?

Now close your eyes and imagine that you embark on your private jet and head to three destinations: a Masai village in Kenya, Gstaad, in Switzerland and some village in the state of Kerala, in India.

At each of these destinations you disembark from your plane, select a local inhabitant at random and show him your list of Big Issues.

Do you honestly think all three persons would just nod in obvious agreement with your list or would you need to, at any or all of the locations explain and defend your choices?

In my opinion, any item that requires arguing to convince people of its legitimacy as a Big Issue is simply not one. It may be an important issue for you personally, for your friends or for the people living in your area or sharing some of your political or religious views. However, it is not a Big Issue instinctively obvious and accepted by anyone from any culture and any country.

Back in the U.S., after allowing for a brief period to recover from the shock of finding that not all cultures agree with your vision of Big Issues, I suggest you redo your list and leave only those matters that receive universal acceptance.

Now which of those issues does Congress usually deal with? If you were honest in redoing the list I’m sure you’ll come to the surprising conclusion that Congress hasn’t discussed any Big Issues for several decades now. It only discusses the “Other Issues”.

Not out of incompetence, mind you, but simply because fortunately, the U.S.A. hasn’t faced famine, war with other nations, widespread civil unrest or a pandemic for a long time now.

Oooopps. I’m so sorry. It seems I have let my personal list slip. Well, anyway, if you were sincere in all the above steps, I’m sure my list is the same as yours.

Now let us muse for a while about something else: the concept of compromise. I keep reading time and again that compromise is the natural thing to do for reasonable people. I beg to disagree. In my opinion, compromise is a very unnatural act forced upon people by fear of a greater evil in case an agreement is not reached. If no such fear exists, why compromise?

Good question isn’t it?

If Congress doesn’t discuss Big Issues and compromise has to be spurred by fear of consequences then it finally becomes obvious why Congress seems to be so dysfunctional. Regardless of the personal relation each Congressman (or woman) may have with alcohol or drugs or of the sexual urges ripping their souls, in my opinion they are just being logical.

If they were suddenly summoned to deliberate on how to react to the surprise attack on Hawaii by Russian forces, I’m sure they wouldn’t be dysfunctional and would quickly reach an agreement, regardless of their differences of opinion.

But the fact is this hugely expensive legislative body is 99% of the time summoned to discuss issues that would have people in most countries drop their jaws in disbelief: should same sex lovers have their ways under the sacred vows of marriage or not?, what should the content of school curriculums be?, should 16 year olds be allowed to shoot machine guns at will?

Regardless of your opinion on such matters they are definitely not Big Issues as defined above and not reaching compromise on any of them is utterly irrelevant.

If you’re a member of Congress and believe in same sex marriage you just vote for it. If you’re dead against it you vote accordingly. Whether you win or lose nothing irreversible will happen and you can always hope to win a future vote. Compromising would only make your support base abandon you.

Even the second tier of issues just below the Big Ones is no longer de facto in the hands of the Congress or the President. Regardless of whoever wins elections, the people who run the American economy are always the same and they aren’t elected. I could write a whole article about that, but you know it’s true, don’t you?

Now you may argue that all this may be true but Congress is extending their lack of capacity to compromise to issues that, although not at the same level as famine, are nevertheless important and risk having consequences.

Maybe you’re right, but after so many decades of discussing ever minor issues, their new ways are becoming a habit and it would probably take an unmistakably huge issue to shake Congress up.

Also one must understand that Congress is composed of human beings and each of them knows that they have no real power and that their act is just a huge diversion to obscure the fact that anything important in America is decided backstage by non-elected billionaires.

Given such a humiliating role is it so difficult to understand why some Congressmen succumb to alcohol, drugs and deviant sexual urges? And obviously, become dysfunctional.

Well, so in the end, everything comes together. Congress is dysfunctional probably both because it only discusses trifles which don’t require compromising and because of the effects of alcohol, drugs and deviant sexual behaviour brought on by the humiliation of their increasingly minor role in running the nation.

Or maybe I got it all wrong and it’s just something in the water. Someone should check that. If that’s the case, a simple filter could solve the problem.

I must confess I started this article with a marked animosity towards Congress but now that I understand the dire situation they are in I actually feel a lot of sympathy for them.

Don’t you?




Did you like what you read? I wrote a novel too.


The Prince and the Singularity

– A Circular Tale –


is now available at Amazon, both as an ebook and as a paper book.

If you’re interested in buying it or in reading a sample,

please follow any of these links:


Amazon Links:

USA / UK / Canada / Germany / France /

Spain / Italy / Japan / Brasil


P. Barrento 2013


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