The U.S. House of Representative and Senate are on target to be the “most do-nothing” Congress in modern history. At least that is the view of Dave Helling, a reporter for The Big Daily Over Town who recently returned from a visit to Washington, D.C.
Helling was the guest speaker Friday, Aug. 9, at the Congressional Forum at the Reardon Convention Center. About 50 persons attended the monthly meeting of the organization that the Kansas City, Kan., Area Chamber of Commerce sponsors.
He compared the current legislators with the next worst Congress—the one in 1948 when Harry S Truman was president. It passed 900 bills; the present Congress has passed only 200 bills.
Helling said he believed that founding fathers such as Thomas Jefferson would be appalled if they saw the divided nature of Congress. Instead of tending to the nation’s business, Congress has turned into a debating society. He blames both Republicans and Democrats for this gridlock.
And Helling doesn’t see much change in future years because of the way House districts have been gerrymandered by conservative state legislatures where Republicans are dominant. Neither does he see much change in the Senate where Democrats have a majority.
The stalemate in Congress is blocking much needed work on public infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges and the electrical grid—much of which needs improvement.
In Kansas, the Republican conservatives have a stranglehold on congressional seats and the state Legislature. Those Republicans who might have once been moderates—such as U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder and U.S. senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts—don’t dare espouse anything but the conservative line, least the tea party crowd would drum up primary election opposition.
Those who follow politics closely said that Kansas Republicans have been successful because they use the base of social conservatives—many times from evangelical churches—as foot soldiers. Financing comes from conservatives such as the Koch Bothers, wealthy industrialists from Wichita.
Helling also talked about the role of newspapers in covering government. Gone are the days that The Big Daily (the Star) can be expected to cover local units of government with any regular pattern. I can certainly confirm that. Although the Wyandotte Daily News usually has an editor at most Unified Commission meetings and a reporter at the BPU meetings, most other governmental unit meetings go uncovered. There is rarely an independent voice at these meetings when millions of public dollars are spent each month. [Editor’s note: The Wyandotte Daily News currently usually covers two to three UG meetings a month and two BPU meetings a month.]
When I worked for The Big Daily in the mid-1960s, there were several editions of both the morning and afternoon newspapers. Gone is the Kansas City, Kan., bureau of the newspaper where it had a staff of about 20 persons in its heyday.
I asked Helling to comment on the recent sale of The Washington Post. Jeff Bezos, the guru who used the Internet to found and develop Amazon.com, bought the newspaper as a private venture. He paid about 25 cents on the dollar, based on what it was worth 10 years ago.
Helling said that there has been speculation that Bezos may use that same genius that he used with the book trade to revitalize the newspaper business. Amazon, by using electronic tablets such as the Kindle reader, is giving new hope to authors as there is not the high cost of printing and distribution. Helling nor anyone else has explained what that genius plan might be.
Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press.