- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2013

WHO DOES CONGRESS WORK FOR ANYWAY?

Inquiring minds want to know: who do the nation’s esteemed lawmakers work for? It looks like the freewheeling group works for nobody. The vast majority of Americans — 90 percent — say elected officials in Washington behave “like they don’t have a boss.” So says a Fox New poll released Thursday. Only 7 percent overall say the lawmakers behave as if they were “employees of the American public.”

And alas. Woe is Washington as well. Another 71 percent say the federal government “is broken,” while 21 percent say the government is “just OK.” A determined 6 percent say things work “pretty well.” These are all record-breaking numbers, by the way.

“In addition, the new poll shows that the belief that Washington is broken is growing. It’s up six percentage points since last year and up 13 points since 2010,” observes Fox News analyst Dana Blanton.

A REMINDER FROM SENATOR CRUZ

All politics may be local. But politics also tends to be allegorical, particularly when money is involved. Take that pesky budget deal that meandered and sidestepped and then bolted through both House and Senate, with some embellishment by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid along the way. It is now a symbol of bigger things, says one cryptic observer.

“This budget bill exemplifies what is wrong with Washington. Nothing is getting fixed. No important reforms are being addressed. The people get little in return except more debt, more taxes, and no change to the Obamacare disaster,” says Sen. Ted Cruz.

“The Senate majority voted to allow Sen. Reid to ignore all Republican amendments. Over and over, this is the roughshod style of leadership that characterizes this Senate and underscores why Washington badly needs to listen to the people,” the Texas Republican concludes.

A REMINDER FROM THE LIBERTARIANS

They watch, and sometimes marvel, over the historically low, bottom-scraping, lingering-at-6-percent approval ratings for the Congress, findings reported by major pollsters for months.

“Democrats and Republicans don’t even seem to care that their approval ratings are in the gutter,” notes Carla Howell, political director for the increasingly aggressive Libertarian Party, which will stage a national convention in San Diego next month.

“So long as they can pass laws to marginalize other political parties and get themselves re-elected, they’re satisfied,” she says, adding, “Democrats and Republicans want to avoid dealing with heated budget negotiations next fall when many are up for re-election. So they’re trying to pass a two-year rather than a one-year budget — purely self-serving, fiscally irresponsible in the extreme, and heartless.”

DUCK AND COVER

The news media has much to crow about as far as “Duck Dynasty” is concerned. The suspension of Phil Robertson — patriarch and star of the uber-popular Arts and Entertainment Network reality TV series — offered ample opportunities for puns, questions, speculations, constitutional discussion and sheer bombast. Among the headlines:

“Is the ‘Duck Dynasty’ goose cooked?” (Fox News), “The real Duck Dynasty scandal is about race” (The Atlantic), “The ‘Duck Dynasty’ fiasco says more about our bigotry than Phil’s” (Time Magazine), “‘Duck Dynasty’ ignites culture war” (Entertainment weekly), “A & E fowls up ‘Duck’ flap” (USA Today), “Will Duck Dynasty suffer the same fate as Paula Deen?” (CBS News), “Conservatives leap to Phil Robertson’s defense” (Hollywood Reporter), “What to do when your golden ‘Duck’ lays an egg” (Washington Post).

“Foul comments by MSNBC’s Martin Bashir take weeks to resolve, but utter your Christian beliefs in an inartful way and you are instantly suspended by A&E, says Media Research Center vice president for culture Dan Gainor, who joins a population of critics who wonder why, for example, actor and former MSNBC host Alec Baldwin didn’t get more pushback for some of his commentary on gays.

“This isn’t a surprise. A&E created a show that tried to make fun of rustic rubes and discovered it had inadvertently created a show that celebrated non-Hollywood values of faith, family and freedom,” Mr. Gainor continues. “It didn’t mean to create a pro-family show. Just as in sitcoms like Beverly Hillbillies, the ‘rubes’ outsmarted the city folk. Now that it can’t hide that fact, it wants to punish the very stars it helped celebrate.”

And from Gregory T. Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans — an organization that represents gay conservatives and allies — comes this statement:

“What Phil Robertson’s comments highlight is the need to engage the evangelical Christian community on the importance of gay acceptance. The knee-jerk reaction from the left shows that their strategy to engage evangelicals is to ignore them or shout them down, but that’s no way to win allies,” he says.

“Rather than see this controversy as the potential end of a career, it should be the start of a conversation — one that’s been long overdue between the evangelical and the gay communities.”

THE CORPORATE VALUE OF POLITICAL RHETORIC

Upbeat political speeches make the stock market go up. No, really. University of Iowa finance analyst Art Durnev analyzed the tone and content of 388 recent “state of the state” addresses given by governors in all 50 states, then compared them in the aftermath to the performances of some 3,000 publicly traded stocks. The results: stocks “showed abnormally high returns” following optimistic messages.

“Our results strongly dispel the notion that political rhetoric is pure noise ignored by the market players, and we show that politicians possess valuable information not known in advance by investors and managers,” says Mr. Durnev, who will present his findings to the American Economic Association in early January.

Take away message, then, to all political strategists: cobble together speeches that say things like “successful” and “pride,” not “unemployment” or “bankrupt.” Then see what happens.

BUMPER PATROL

“Remember America?”

— Bumper sticker spotted in Albuquerque, N.M.

POLL DU JOUR

86 percent of Americans buy gifts and gather with family and friends on Christmas or Christmas Eve; 90 percent of white evangelicals, 88 percent of Protestants, 87 percent of black Protestants and 85 percent of Catholics agree.

73 percent believe “that Jesus was born of a virgin”; 97 percent of white evangelicals, 87 percent of Protestants, 94 percent of black Protestants and 26 percent of Catholics agree.

54 percent will attend religious services this year; 71 percent of white evangelicals, 62 percent of Protestants, 65 percent of black Protestants and 86 percent of Catholics agree.

51 percent say Christmas is a “religious holiday”; 82 percent of white evangelicals, 67 percent of Protestants, 60 percent of black Protestants and 59 percent of Catholics agree.

32 percent overall say Christmas is a “cultural holiday”; 9 percent of white evangelicals, 20 percent of Protestants, 21 percent of black Protestants and 26 percent of Catholics agree.

Source: A Pew Research Center poll of 2,001 U.S. adults conducted Dec. 3-8 and released Thursday.

• Merry Christmas and happy holidays, and thank you for reading Inside the Beltway.

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