- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 11, 2013

“Americans’ job approval ratings for Congress in 2013 averaged 14 percent, the lowest annual average in Gallup’s history. Congressional approval has averaged 33 percent since Gallup began measuring it in 1974, with the highest yearly average of 56 percent reached in 2001,” reports Frank Newport, director of Gallup.

“Low evaluations of Congress appear to be a new normal, with average ratings below 20 percent in each of the last four years,” he says, adding, “Americans’ approval of the job Congress is doing has never been extremely high on any consistent basis in recent decades, but over the past several years, it has reached new lows. This, to some degree, reflects the currently divided nature of Congress, with the correspondingly reduced stake both party groups have in defending the institution.”

BUDGET DEAL = POLITICAL DEVICE

Political theater already has taken over the bipartisan federal budget deal so delicately forged by Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan. Why, the legislation is a regular dramatic tableau for all comers, whether they are defenders or critics of the Washington Democrat and Wisconsin Republican, respectively. But hey, defenders and critics know a good opportunity when they see one.

“This unremarkable budget compromise is all about November 2014. Both Republicans and Democrats want to avoid being held responsible for gridlock,” says S.T. Karnick, director of research for the Heartland Institute, a Chicago nonprofit.

“But that means the one pressing issue on the table will be Obamacare, which is doing huge damage to only one party. Thus the budget deal, if it ultimately passes, could have big political implications by default,” he adds.

‘TINY AND PHONY’: THE NUMBERS

Criticism of the federal budget agreement continues to foment among those who say that the Grand Old Party has gone beyond compromise and into self-destruction, phase one.

“Republican leaders are throwing away their only major spending accomplishment in years in return for revenue increases and spending trims that are mainly tiny and phony,” says Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, adding that Republicans have put in a dismal fiscal performance this year.

The problem with the discretionary spending deal aggregated by the aforementioned lawmakers pretty well implodes the 2011 Budget Control Act, which Mr. Edwards deems the GOP’s “only major spending accomplishment in years.”

He explains the actual numbers:

“Before the new agreement, current law set discretionary spending at $967 billion in 2014. The new budget deal would raise that cap to $1.012 trillion, which is a spending hike of $45 billion. Why would Republican leaders agree to that?” Mr. Edwards demands. “On paper, the new budget deal only lifts current spending caps for 2014 and 2015, and the caps in later years remain in place. The problem is that appropriators of both parties never sleep; they are not going to go into hibernation for the next decade contented with current spending limits.”

GIPPER MIGHT HAVE SMILED OVER NEW ‘REAGAN APP’

Daily diary entries once written by President Reagan, White House schedules for each year of his presidency, historic photos and videos, an audio quote of the day — these are among the many classy and thoughtful offerings found on the “Ronald Reagan official app,” launched Wednesday by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. The free app can be downloaded directly from either the iTunes or Google Play stores.

“This one-of-a-kind mobile app is the only one sanctioned and produced by President Reagan’s foundation, and, as such, it is more than just an app that contains his speeches,” says John Heubusch, executive director of the foundation.

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