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Friday, October 21, 2016

The problem with modern-day politics, aside from everything, is that it lacks consistent excitement.

Sure, there are moments when debate over a major bill gets attention, but our interest fades once the bill passes and we drift back to more intriguing things, like reality television shows about dumb people.

Last week, however, lawmakers in the GOP-controlled Congress took a step that could turn American politics into must-see TV: They serialized democracy.

At issue was a bill to continue funding the Department of Homeland Security, the folks responsible for protecting our borders and keeping the country safe from terrorism. Most would agree it’s important to have that part of the government functioning, largely so it can do its “keeping the country safe from terrorism” thing.

After the requisite amount of harrumphing and whatnot, lawmakers could have just funded the department and moved on to other matters, allowing us to get bored and shift our attention to the myriad Kardashians we have to keep up with.

Instead, a wily group of Republicans decided the Homeland Security funding bill would be a great thing to use as leverage against President Barack Obama’s recent executive action on immigration, which is supposed to shield from deportation about 5 million immigrants who live in the U.S. illegally. The GOP lawmakers said they would only fund the Department of Homeland Security if the bill also rolled back Obama’s executive action, which they say is illegal and tyrannical and really hurt their feelings.

The problem is, Democrats won’t vote for a DHS funding bill that overrides the president’s immigration action, and even if they did, Obama would veto the whole thing. Also, the president’s attempt at immigration reform was recently suspended by a federal judge.

But legal limbo and the Sisyphean nature of legislatively doing away with Obama’s executive action would not deter these Republicans. They stuck to their guns, shot down short-term funding measures and — as the clock ticked to the deadline — finally agreed to give the Department of Homeland Security a week’s worth of additional money.

Several Republicans criticized their own party for being unable to reach agreement on a long-term bill that would keep the DHS running. And Democrats, naturally, had a field day.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee communications director Matt Thornton told Politico: “If this is a harbinger of things to come, the American public is in for a very long, painful and unproductive Congress.”

That’s one way to look at things. The other is that America is in for a long, gloriously dramatic and delightfully farcical new season of “Congress.”

With a one-week funding extension, Republicans gave us not just a dramatic cliffhanger — What happens when the homeland you love is no longer protected? — but the promise of another week of political intrigue.

Will Obama cave to the GOP’s pressure, take back his executive action and finally admit he’s a Kenyan-born radical transported through time to bring American society to its knees? Will House Speaker John Boehner rise from his office tanning bed, march to the congressional clubhouse where ultra-conservative lawmakers make forts out of stacks of money and shout, “SERIOUSLY, GUYS?!?”

This is not a failure to govern on the part of Republicans. It’s an ingenious way to methodically push the political narrative forward and keep Americans enthralled.

Perhaps the wildly popular public radio podcast Serial — which drew millions of online listeners by using an episodic format — gave lawmakers this idea. Wherever the concept came from, it’s gold.

Following the Republicans’ “short-term decisions equal long-term drama” lead, Democrats should now restrict their legislative actions to a maximum of seven days.

For example, rather than flatly vetoing the GOP’s Keystone XL pipeline bill, Obama should have issued a special one-week veto. That would have given us days of delicious bickering between legislators, oil companies and environmentalists. Why watch The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills when you could see The Real Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statements for the Keystone XL Pipeline Project of the State Department?

Here’s the bottom line: Episodic politics would put plenty of butts on sofas and finally get Americans tuning in to what their government is doing or, in most cases, not doing.

What’s to lose? If the whole process is going to be ridiculous, it might as well be ridiculously good TV.

Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune and a noted hypocrisy enthusiast. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @RexHuppke.

Photo: Speaker John Boehner via Flickr

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  • Lynda Groom

    Indeed we are suffering from ‘congressional dysfunction.’ It is embarrassing for the country showing our butt to the rest of the civilized world week in and week out. It seems that members of the Congress, and the House in particular, are taking turns trying to intentionally says the dumbest things. Perhaps someday the process will return to civility and reason over agenda driven hyperbole.

    • Independent1

      Not sure that’s going to happen too quickly. I’m afraid the clown show may keep up for a while; the Republican base gets bored easily so they just love these drama shows that Boehner and McConnell put on.

    • idamag

      I always wonder if family trees have branches on them, in some of these areas, that send people to Washington.

  • Frank KIng

    The deliberate “dysfunction” is just a replacement for the obstructionism of the last six(6) years of right wing attempts to return to their old ways of “governance”. It was the last right wing bunch headed by Bush/Cheney or vice versa that had control of the government and our lives and created such a mess at home and abroad that may never be rectified. They are back in power to do almost anything they wish except for the power of the veto to continue their malfeasance/misfeasance, mismanagement and incompetence and the voodoo economics they do so well.

  • James Bowen

    Let’s hope the courts stop this illegal amnesty, and that Congress can
    find it in themselves to reassert their Constitutional authority in such

    • Independent1

      Illegal where?? In your obviously convoluted mind!! It’s clearly not illegal; Reagan edicted it; Congress actually acted and made it legal back in the 1980s. And the Bush 1 Administration also edicted more Amnesty for some illegals in the early 1990s. So under what basis are you calling it illegal?? The James Bowen Emperor’s act???

      • James Bowen

        Reagan signed a bill that Congress passed into law which gave amnesty to illegals who had entered before then. Bush issued an executive order which facilitated the implementation of that law. It was not an permanent amnesty, which would have been the same as having unlimited immigration. Congress passed to such law for the current, much larger wave of illegals.

        • Independent1

          What hogwash!! The AMNESTY that Reagan and Bush 1 edicted made no where near the requirements for the illegals to become citizens that Obama has. And what he has ordered IN NO WAY establishes a way for any other immigrants to illegally become citizens in the future.

          Obama’s plan only really affects illegals who have been in the country already: children who were brought here (effectively those covered by DACA) and the parents of children that are already citizens. So we’re talking about an estimated 5 million of the 11 million illegals.

          And beyond that, Obama is requiring that these illegals not be criminals (not have a criminal record), pay any back taxes they may owe, and get in the back of the line and pay any costs that may be required for them to apply for citizenship. Reagan and Bush’s proclamations required none of that; they virtually gave the illegals outright Amnesty. They basically said: these groups of illegals we simply are never going to round up and deport.

          • James Bowen

            Amnesties can be conditional. In fact, they often are. Obama’s order affects far, far more people than Reagan’s and Bush’s did. That also doesn’t change the fact that the orders those two former Presidents issued were meant to facilitate the implementation of a law Congress passed. In Obama’s case, Congress, Congress explicitly rejected the bill in question.

            Most, if not all, illegal aliens have committed crimes. If they work on payroll, as most of the are estimated to, it is all but certain they have committed Federal felonies relating to SSN theft/fraud.

            You nor anyone else doesn’t know if these people would be deported or not. We have after all deported people by the millions before, notwithstanding the fact that there are far more efficient ways to enforce immigration laws than physical removal.

          • Independent1

            More of your lies!! The numbers are almost exactly the same: The projection for Reagan was 3 million and actually 2.9 million signed the papers they needed to become citizens without having paid ANYTHING!! And the estimate for Bush 1’s amnesty was 1.5 million. Together that’s 4.5 million illegals while the “projection” for Obama is 5 million. Far more is a total absurdity!!

            And when you break one of our laws like speeding, or any number of civil infractions and go into court and pay the fine or have to do some form of restitution, do you consider that AMNESTY?? Well that’s the same here. These immigrants broke our laws sure – so Obama’s saying you’ve got to pay some costs to make up for doing that JUST LIKE YOU DO WHEN YOU BREAK ANY NUMBER OF OTHER AMERICAN LAWS!!

            GROW UP YOU MINDLESS IDIOT!!!!!!!

          • James Bowen

            3 million was the number granted amnesty by the IRCA in 1986. The executive actions that Reagan and Bush took were related to this, and the numbers affected by their specific actions were far, far smaller. See here for more information, and pay particular attention to section D.

            The difference is that by paying a fine, I am not allowed to speed afterwards. These illegals, if allowed to stay, are rewarded with the objective of their lawbreaking. That is amnesty.

          • Independent1

            More nonsense!! You’re not allowed to speed afterward?? What a joke!!!!!!!!!!!! Millions of Americans make a career out of running up speeding, parking and other civil related penalties and in the proces of committing these crimes, YOU’RE DOING ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO BENEFIT AMERICA, WHILE IN MANY WAYS, IT’S ALIENS AND MANY OF THEM ILLEGALS WHO ARE ACTUALLY KEEPING AMERICA PROSPEROUS!! WITHOUT THEM!! OUR ECONOMY WOULD BE IN THE DOLDRUMS!!!!!!!!


          • James Bowen

            The law does not allow me to speed after paying a fine for a speeding ticket.

            These illegals cannot even pay for the cost of living in this country on what they are making. They depress wages, steal jobs, and put more wear and tear on public infrastructure than was anticipated. That is not keeping America prosperous, and that is not helping the economy.

            By the way, after Alabama passed that law and illegals fled the state, unemployment went way down in that state.

          • Independent1

            Everything you just posted is an OUTRIGHT LIE!! Immigrants including illegals FAR MORE than pay for their presence: the new businesses they start and economic activity they created not only creates jobs but actually drives up wages because the perform jobs native-born Americans WILL NOT DO which keeps many farmers, construction companies and other businesses active and creating jobs for native-born Americans. And not only that, but their contributions to Social Security and Medicare, benefits they cannot get, have helped extend the life of both of those +programs. YOU ARE CONSISTENTLY WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING YOU POST!!!!!!!!

          • James Bowen

            Really, there is no need to be rude.

            I’m afraid it is you who is wrong about these things. Having more workers driving up wages contradicts the very well tested principle of supply and demand. And as you can see here, there is no such thing as a job that Americans will not do:

            Those business you mention want cheap labor, plain and simple, and many of these illegals do not make enough money to even cover the cost of living in this country. Pretty hard to be a net contributor under those circumstances.

          • Independent1

            I’m sorry, but I’ve disproven your ant-immigrant, racist comments numerous times before – it’s getting tiring.

            Here’s an article that refutes everything you’re saying:

            Left and Right Agree: Immigrants Don’t Take American Jobs

            March 22, 2013 As Congress considers immigration reform, experts across the political spectrum say American jobs are safe.

            That immigrants take the jobs of American-born citizens is “something that virtually no learned person believes in,” Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration expert at the libertarian Cato Institute, said at a Thursday panel. “It’s sort of a silly thing.”

            Most economists don’t find immigrants driving down wages or jobs, the Brookings Institution’sMichael Greenstone and Adam Looney wrote in May. In fact, “on average, immigrant workers increase the opportunities and incomes of Americans,” they write. Foreign-born workers don’t affect the employment rate positively or negatively, according to a 2011 analysis from the conservative American Enterprise Institute. And a study released Wednesday by the liberal Center for American Progress suggests that granting legal status to undocumented workers might even create jobs.

            The CAP study, led by the visiting head of the Washington College economics department, sought to predict what would happen under immigration reform. The researchers considered a handful of scenarios. In each, it was presumed that the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants would be immediately granted legal status. They then looked at the effect of those undocumented immigrants not being granted citizenship at all over a decade, getting it immediately, or getting it in five years.

            Legal status alone would lead to the creation of 121,000 extra jobs annually over the next 10 years, they found. Getting citizenship within five years would increase that to 159,000 jobs per year. And receiving both legal status and citizenship this year would create an extra 203,000 jobs annually.


          • James Bowen

            So, all these “learned people” are telling us that the law of supply and demand is meaningless. This article does not refute anything. It is just a bunch of people who think they are big shots trying to convince people something that is as patently false as saying the Sun rises in the West. The data I showed you before shows that there is no such thing as a job Americans won’t do. The well-tested principle of supply and demand tells as that increasing the labor supply increases competition for jobs and depresses wages. Since 2007, we have been taking in more immigrants than we have been creating jobs. Sorry, those numbers speak for themselves, in spite what these people trying to convince us that fantasy is reality say.

          • Independent1


          • James Bowen

            CIS has nothing to do with the Heritage Foundation (except for possibly a few common members). Know what you are talking about before writing. Nothing I have said or linked to is a lie. No matter how much these people try to fudge numbers, they are not going to repeal the law of supply and demand.

          • Independent1

            And here are some excerpts from an article on Alabama’s immigration law fiasco which prove your idiot information saying there aren’t any jobs Americans would do is TOTAL UNMITIGATED BS!!!!

            From Yahoo News:

            Rick Pate, the owner of a commercial landscaping company in Montgomery, lost two of his most experienced workers, who were in the country legally. He spent thousands of dollars training them to install irrigation systems at places like the Hyundai plant.

            “They just feel like there is a negative atmosphere for them here. They don’t feel welcome. I don’t begrudge them. I’d feel nervous, too,” Pate said.

            While it’s not clear how many of an estimated 185,000 Hispanic people in the state have fled, one estimate figured as much one-fourth of the commercial building work force had left since the law was upheld last week, said Bill Caton, president of Associated General Contractors of Alabama. Commercial construction is a more than $7 billion-a-year industry in Alabama.

            Farmer Chad Smith said his family farm stands to lose up to $150,000 because there are not enough workers to pick tomatoes spoiling in the fields. “We will be lucky to be in business next year,” he said.

            In Tuscaloosa, there is still a lot of rebuilding to be done after Alabama’s killer tornadoes in April. Without the Hispanic workers to help out, it will take even longer for neighborhoods to be fixed up. Blake Corder, the president of the Home Builders Association of Tuscaloosa, noted that the workers had left the area and he even lost a few renters in the past week.

            Builders have complained they can’t find replacement workers and delays in projects are expected. Once the economy picks up and construction returns to normal, the impact will increase, said Russell Davis, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Alabama.

            “There is going to be a void. No question,” Davis said.

          • James Bowen

            Actually, this reads that the law worked as intended. Americans won’t do those jobs–so say those employers who just want cheap labor. The data I have shown you reveals otherwise. Those employers need to do one of two things 1) offer higher wages, or 2), more likely, try harder to find Americans.

          • Independent1

            Total BS as usual!! The law of supply and demand has absolutely nothing to do with being able to get native-born Americans to do workTHAT THEY ARE SIMPLY NOT GOING TO DO!! When native-born Americans grow up, no mother is going to be encouraging her children to prepare for and shoot for a life of harvesting crops in the boiling hot sun, or spending ours digging ditches for construction, or hauling heavy loads of bricks or roof shingles – IT JUST AIN’T GOING TO HAPPEN THAT NATIVE-BORNS ARE GOING TO BE ENTICED INTO THAT!!

            And that can be seen by anyone with an ounce of common sense (which you clearly don’t have) by the fact that even at the height of the Great Recession with millions out of work, these Alabama farmers and construction companies could not even then attract the workers they needed. Alabama even tried using prisoners from their prisons to do the work until the farmers and construction companies said NO THANKS!! Because the prisoners wouldn’t do half the work that the immigrants would do!!! And why, BECAUSE NATIVE-BORN AMERICANS ARE NOT GOING TO DO THAT MENIAL LABOR!!! WAKE UP CLUELESS!! YOU’RE FULL OF BS!!!!!!!!!

          • idamag

            When the chicken farm was raided by INS back in the old days, they discovered that the owner had ordered 150 illegals from a coyote. This leaves, those waiting to come here legally, still waiting as they will cost the greedy ranchers more than illegals.

          • Independent1

            Exactly! Immigrant haters like Bowen have no clue to just how much immigrants, including illegals are doing to keep America running – how much they’re putting into the economy and how many millions of native -born Americans’ jobs their not only creating but supporting. Bowen and the vast majority of Americans don’t realize t hat getting rid of even a large chunk of the 11 million illegals would throw America into a recession that would make the Great Recession look like a walk in the park.

          • James Bowen

            We don’t need them. There are plenty of Americans who are able and willing to do these jobs, and the presence of these illegals results in lost jobs and wage depression, not to mention strain on public infrastructure. Getting rid of them would open up jobs and put upward pressure on wages. To deny this is to say that we can get something from nothing.

          • Independent1


          • James Bowen

            Are you denying that adding more laborers increases the supply of labor, thereby putting downward pressure on wages? You might as well say the Earth is flat.

          • James Bowen

            Ranchers raise cattle, not chickens, and a Great Plains ranch is a highly mechanized operation where the owner(s) do almost all the work themselves.

          • James Bowen


            Well, according to the data presented above, most of these jobs are being mostly done by Americans as it is, and the few that don’t have majority Americans doing it have very high unemployment rates. Just because you say there are jobs that Americans won’t do does not make it true, the facts speak for themselves.

            That is what the farmers and construction workers said, but again it is not backed up by reality. Did grocery produce stands run empty in Alabama? No, prices did not even change appreciably. Did buildings go unbuilt? Not for lack of labor they did not.

            And yes, supply and demand has everything to do with attracting native-born workers to jobs. If jobs are scarce, wages go up to make those jobs more competitive in the labor market.

          • Independent1

            Sorry, the CIS is a right-wing propaganda organization just like Faux News and the Heritage Foundation; all it spews is LIES!!!!!!!!

            Go jump off the nearest cliff Bowen, all you’re spewing is lies and distortions of reality!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • James Bowen

            Almost all of their data comes from U.S. government open sources. Many of their members are retired government officials and attorneys.

          • Independent1

            Maybe so! But just like with Faux News, although facts may come in the front door, what gets published is garbage and propaganda that come out the other end 24/7: LIES AND DISTORTIONS OF THE TRUTH IS ALL FAUX NEWS AND THE CIS NOW HOW TO PUBLISH!!!!!!!

          • James Bowen

            These facts they have published, some of which I have shown you, speak for themselves. CIS simply plays the role of Vanna White in displaying them.

          • Independent1

            Hogwash!! CIS does not play the role of Vanna White. It does just like the Heritage Foundation and manipulates the numbers it supposedly gets honestly, into it’s own satisfaction, sometimes being creative and actually manufacturing the numbers out of thin air: and sometimes in direct contradiction to reality (it outright lies just like this example of the Heritage Foundation spewing LIES!!!)

            See this:

            Busted! Heritage Foundation economist can only defend Kansas tax cuts by fabricating data

            Moore’s column argued that Kansas needed to give Brownback’s regime more time to work its wonders, because “the national data tell us” that over the last 20 years

            the nine states without an income tax have had double the population growth and more than double the income growth of states with very high income taxes. These results are statistically significant, which means it is very unlikely they happened by chance. This does not mean all states that cut taxes have growth or that all states with high taxes don’t have growth. It means there is a strong propensity for low-tax and tax-cutting states to grow. Period. This is a problem for the left because places such as New York, Massachusetts, Illinois and California that have been following Krugman’s (and President Barack Obama’s) economic strategy are getting clobbered by tax-cutting states.

            OK. Some of you have already noticed that here we have a “chief economist” abusing the concept of “statistical significance” in a way that would embarrass a first year student of the subject.

            But let’s move on to what Moore said next:

            No-income-tax Texas gained 1 million jobs over the last five years; California, with its 13 percent tax rate, managed to lose jobs. Oops. Florida gained hundreds of thousands of jobs while New York lost jobs. Oops.

            Abouhalkah found FOUR errors in that brief passage.

            No. 1: Moore’s data isn’t from “the last five years”. When challenged by The Star he admitted it was from December 2007 to December 2012. Which is a deliberate deception. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data that Moore was relying on is updated Every. Single. Month. So there is no reason to use 18-month-old data. If Moore honestly wanted to look at the “the last five years” he could have presented the numbers from mid-2009 to mid-2014.

            No. 2: even within his cherry-picked dates, Moore lied about the numbers. Texas did not gain 1 million jobs in that 2007-2012 period. The correct figure was a gain of 497,400 jobs.

            No. 3: Florida did not add hundreds of thousands of jobs in that span. It lost 461,500 jobs.

            No. 4: New York, which has one of the highest income tax rates, did not lose jobs during that time. It gained 75,900 jobs.

            Abouhalkah noted a 5th oddity as well:

            California since December 2012 — when Moore stopped measuring employment growth — has added 541,000 jobs, which is more than Texas’ 523,400. So, high taxes are good?At this point one must ask: how is it that Stephen Moore still has a job?

            More importantly, let’s see what Abouhalkah’s own research turned up. From his July 18 piece – the one he was researching when he realized how dishonest Moore’s piece was:

            Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and his advisers want to create an alternate reality when it comes to job growth in the state.

          • James Bowen

            This is about CIS, not Heritage. CIS simply presents data, much of which comes from open source government documents, and that data speaks for itself. If they fabricate anything, show me evidence for such a charge.

            By the way, I am from Kansas, and I oppose those tax cuts.

          • idamag

            None of these people, who want them all deported. would even consider going after the big business who bring them here, illegally so they will not have to pay a decent wage.

          • James Bowen

            Wanna bet?

          • Independent1

            And you make accusations about illegals when you don’t even know what you’re talking about. Millions of illegals pay into Social Security and Medicare using ITINs – Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers that the IRS will give to foreigners at their request. Not all illegal immigrants that are working, paying taxes are criminals. YOU ARE THE BIG FRAUD!!!!!!!!!

          • James Bowen

            An ITIN is not acceptable for an I-9. Therefore, it is all but certain that most of them have committed felonies.

          • Independent1

            Sorry Bowen!! More of your BS!! The IRS admits that thousands of employers use ITINs to pay their foreign workers, including illegals, which allows between 55 and 70% of illegals to pay not only income taxes but also into Social Securing and Medicare, adding about 12 Billion/yr into Social Security and billions into Medicare. Helping extend the life of both of those programs!! Your lies are absolutely astounding in their STUPIDITY!!!!!

          • James Bowen

            They are still not allowed to use ITIN’s for the I-9.

            Yes, they do pay taxes, but they still take a lot more out of our system than they put in. They money they send home is money our nation loses, and in case you haven’t heard the IRS does give them tax refunds via the Earned Income Tax Credit.

      • plc97477

        The problem with that take is that reagan and both bushes had lighter skin color.

      • idamag

        Reagan wasn’t a Black man,

  • GraceAdams830

    I personally believe: 1) fighting terrorists is counter-productive–it merely creates more terrorists. 2) The Department of Homeland Security since born of an uproar over terrorism is also counter-productive; it would work better to send the parts that existed before 9/11/2001 back where they came from and repeal the parts that are ONLY paranoia. Therefore, I would rather see the Department of Homeland Security dismantled.

    • idamag


  • plc97477

    The problem with that plan for the gotp is that when people pay attention they lose a lot.

  • idamag

    Good description of the GOP. They are like a reality show, only you can’t turn them off.