Democ-rat-ic Congress is still on break

Ted Hamilton

Much like rats on a sinking ship, the Democrats in Congress are grasping life preservers as they sink in a sea of unfulfilled promises to the voters who gave them control of the ship of government. Riding into office on a wave of the public’s resentment of the war in Iraq, the party ran on a mostly anti-war ticket in 2006. Commandeering the ship from the Republicans who sailed into Congress in 1994, the Democrats have run into a reef of numerous failures.

The main planks the Democrats ran with in 2006 – ending the war, securing the borders and shrinking the federal deficit – have not shown much improvement. According to the latest Gallup poll, Congress’ approval rating is now 22 percent, which I suppose is better than the 14 percent approval rating Gallup reported Congress held in June 2007. These polls are below what the Republican majority held when they were ousted in 2006.

According to an article that ran on on Dec. 20, Democrats had previously claimed they would withhold war funds until a timetable was set for withdrawal of troops from Iraq; however, the Congress just passed a huge spending bill that contained $70 billion for the wars. This money is expected to last until September 2008.

Along with the considerable war funds in the spending bill ($555 billion in its entirety), there is a considerable amount of “earmarks,” money that goes toward particular projects to only benefit one congressional member’s district. Earmarks are also known as pork-barrel spending because the projects are used as a way for members to show voters how much money they have obtained for the people, whether the projects are useful or not.

According to the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, tax revenue was set aside for 11,331 earmarks, although Congress had claimed it would reduce the number to less than 7,000 while campaigning in 2006. Nancy Pelosi and her gang of pirates have been running under a red flag of balancing the budget while barely reducing earmarks, robbing taxpayers of billions of dollars that could be spent on reducing the deficit. Congress also made the mistake of waiting until the last minute to vote on a patch to the alternative minimum tax.

According to, the alternative minimum tax in the past was designed to make sure upper-class citizens could not get through a certain loophole in the tax code, but if it had been enacted this year, 20 million middle-class Americans would have had to pay up to $2,000 more in taxes. Luckily Congress delayed the tax for the year but did not provide a way for the treasury to make up the $50 billion it will lose from delaying the tax.

Has the Democratic majority really improved America or fulfilled its promises? The short answer is “no.” Outside of touting Pelosi as “the first woman Speaker of the House,” the Democrats have done little to affect history – outside of the historical low approval rating it has obtained. It has not set a timetable for Iraq or done much to reduce the federal deficit.

There may be one silver lining to the Democrats not fixing anything in Congress – it provides more of an opportunity for third parties to sneak into their ironclad. The Libertarian Party reports significant growth in its members being elected to local offices and cites the failure of the main parties as reason for its (slight) popularity. GOP candidate Ron Paul, a former member of the Libertarian Party himself, has amassed a considerable war chest to the tune of millions of dollars even though he is one of the least known presidential candidates.

Although the Democrats’ ship is sinking and, with it, the promises they made to the American people, will voters grab the life preservers of the independent parties, or will they again place their faith in the Republicans who are more of the same? Maybe this year, the rats will finally begin to be voted off and a new wave of politicians will arrive on Capitol Hill.

Ted Hamilton is a senior magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].