Why Congress is at a Standstill

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Here is Gallup’s latest poll on what legislation Americans would like to see passed this year:

Is this good news? I’d say no for two reasons. First, those are pretty thin margins. Stimulus polls the best, but even that’s only 60-38. There’s just not much sense of urgency there. You generally need stronger support than that to get Congress to take action.

But the second reason is that these are lousy questions. Should Congress try to create jobs and stimulate the economy? Sure. Who wouldn’t want Congress to do that? Astonishingly, though, 38% are opposed anyway. But what do you think the breakdown would be if the question asked if Congress should create jobs and stimulate the economy “even if it increases the federal deficit”? Or if the second question added “even if it raises the cost of gasoline and electricity”? Or if the third question added “even if it makes credit more difficult to get”?

It doesn’t even matter if those are fair arguments that come after the “ifs.” All that matters is that those are the arguments that would be made. And there’s not much question, I think, that support for these items would all drop at least five or ten points once those “ifs” were tacked on. And that’s why Congress is unlikely to take action on any of them.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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