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.

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