"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.
Would the 40th president have liked the idea? The chances are good that such an exuberant and canny device would have appealed to "the great communicator."
"The app is the only way to receive exclusive content about the president as well as be able to get access to the Reagan library's audio tour when you're on our campus," Mr. Heubusch adds.
MATTHEWS VS THE 'FESTERING' TEA PARTY
Of interest to Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin, Teaparty News Network editor Todd Cefaratti, Tea Party Express director Amy Kremer and Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips, among many. A pivotal little quote from MSNBC host Chris Matthews:
"I have a sense talking to people, not just from the South but from New York state for example, the tea party's still growing," he said in a conversation with Michelle Goldberg, a contributing writer to The Nation.
"We here at MSNBC may offer a different point of view some, most of the time. But I got to tell you I sense it's still out there and festering. I don't think the center in the Republican Party that survives these years has the strength to take it on," Mr. Matthews concluded.
It would be nice if all those earnest, virtuous plastic bag bans in cities and towns across the nation were actually good for the environment. They are not, at least according to a close study of several local programs revealing that the amount of garbage, level of recycling and waster disposal costs are actually going up in cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and the nation's capital. All have either restricted, banned or taxed the bags.
"San Francisco banned plastic bags in 2007, claiming in part that the ban would decrease the overall amount of garbage collected. In fact, garbage and recycling rates rose more than 78.6 percent in the city between 2005 and 2013," says the new study from the National Center for Policy Analysis, a nonprofit research group.
"Advocates of bag bans insist that plastic bags harm the environment. In fact, plastic grocery bags are actually more environmentally friendly than alternatives, making up just 0.6 percent of all litter. According to the EPA, plastic bags account for less than 0.5 percent of the entire waste stream," the analysis notes.
"Bag bans are bad for the environment," says H. Sterling Burnett, who led the research. "The alternatives — paper bags and reusable bags — use more energy, use more resources, produce more greenhouse gases and produce more waste and pollution than plastic grocery bags. In short, plastic bags are the green alternative."
POLL DU JOUR
• 73 percent of Americans say the typical lawmaker does not understand the U.S. health care system and health care laws.
• 70 percent oppose requiring younger, healthier people to pay more for health insurance if it helps pay for older, less healthy people.
• 55 percent would prefer to remain in the health care system in place prior to Obamacare; 34 percent would prefer Obamacare.
• 53 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Obamacare; 41 percent have a favorable opinion of the new health care law.
• 45 percent disliked the law when it passed and still dislike it.
• 26 percent liked the law when it passed and still like it.
• 18 percent liked the law when it passed, but now like it less.
Source: A Reason-Rupe poll of 1,011 U.S. adults conducted Dec. 4 and 5.
• Complaints, the pitter patter of applause to jharper@ washingtontimes.com
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