The Dysfunctional US Senate

This week it is the turn of George Packer, the noted journalist, columnist for Mother Jones, author and playwright, to write on the United States Senate. Taking to the pages of the New Yorker to pen this latest installment of what has become an all too regular occurrence among observers of our body politic, Packard asks the now oft-repeated question of just how broken is the Senate?

The answer is very. His twelve page masterful essay, full of insightful anecdotes and telling quotes, traces the descent of the Senate. Once a "cozy atmosphere that encouraged both deliberation and back-room deals," the Senate has become a dysfunctional, fractious chamber populated by “ideologues and charlatans” - to quote the oft-used characterization made by the Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein - who are governed by arcane, byzantine, and frankly absurd procedures and incapable of producing the necessary legislation or confirming the necessary appointments to keep the country moving forward. 

Packer's essay is a must read. I've opted to pull some of the anecdotes and quotes and offer some thoughts as well as add some supplementary evidence.

Michael Bennet, a freshman Democrat from Colorado, said, “Sit and watch us for seven days—just watch the floor. You know what you’ll see happening? Nothing. When I’m in the chair, I sit there thinking, I wonder what they’re doing in China right now?”

While academics and even Chinese officials are divided over whether there is such a thing as a "China model," the debate is more over whether the China model can be copied and transferred to other developing nations rather than over whether a Chinese path to development exists. Clearly, one does. The main advantage of the Chinese model is that being highly centralized decisions are made quickly and the resources committed.

To take one example, just look at the Chinese development of its rail and high speed rail transportation infrastructure. Beginning in 2005, China embarked on the second largest public works program in history, surpassed only by the Eisenhower-era Interstate Highway System in size. China plans to spend more than $1 trillion (or more than our $787 billion fiscal stimulus and as measure of comparison the Obama Administration has committed $8 billion in ARRA funds for high speed rail plus another $5 billion over 5 years) on expanding its railway network from 78,000 km today to 110,000 km in 2012 and 120,000 km in 2020 with 13,000 km being high speed rail. The Beijing-Hong Kong line would be the largest single element of the system, at more than 1,000 miles long. A comparable line in the US would run from Boston to Miami. And as our transportation infrastructure crumbles, Republican Senators would prefer to give tax cuts to the wealthy and than to reinvest in America. The monies are there but the will is lacking.

There's more...

The Dysfunctional US Senate

This week it is the turn of George Packer, the noted journalist, columnist for Mother Jones, author and playwright, to write on the United States Senate. Taking to the pages of the New Yorker to pen this latest installment of what has become an all too regular occurrence among observers of our body politic, Packard asks the now oft-repeated question of just how broken is the Senate?

The answer is very. His twelve page masterful essay, full of insightful anecdotes and telling quotes, traces the descent of the Senate. Once a "cozy atmosphere that encouraged both deliberation and back-room deals," the Senate has become a dysfunctional, fractious chamber populated by “ideologues and charlatans” - to quote the oft-used characterization made by the Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein - who are governed by arcane, byzantine, and frankly absurd procedures and incapable of producing the necessary legislation or confirming the necessary appointments to keep the country moving forward. 

Packer's essay is a must read. I've opted to pull some of the anecdotes and quotes and offer some thoughts as well as add some supplementary evidence.

Michael Bennet, a freshman Democrat from Colorado, said, “Sit and watch us for seven days—just watch the floor. You know what you’ll see happening? Nothing. When I’m in the chair, I sit there thinking, I wonder what they’re doing in China right now?”

While academics and even Chinese officials are divided over whether there is such a thing as a "China model," the debate is more over whether the China model can be copied and transferred to other developing nations rather than over whether a Chinese path to development exists. Clearly, one does. The main advantage of the Chinese model is that being highly centralized decisions are made quickly and the resources committed.

To take one example, just look at the Chinese development of its rail and high speed rail transportation infrastructure. Beginning in 2005, China embarked on the second largest public works program in history, surpassed only by the Eisenhower-era Interstate Highway System in size. China plans to spend more than $1 trillion (or more than our $787 billion fiscal stimulus and as measure of comparison the Obama Administration has committed $8 billion in ARRA funds for high speed rail plus another $5 billion over 5 years) on expanding its railway network from 78,000 km today to 110,000 km in 2012 and 120,000 km in 2020 with 13,000 km being high speed rail. The Beijing-Hong Kong line would be the largest single element of the system, at more than 1,000 miles long. A comparable line in the US would run from Boston to Miami. And as our transportation infrastructure crumbles, Republican Senators would prefer to give tax cuts to the wealthy and than to reinvest in America. The monies are there but the will is lacking.

There's more...

The Dysfunctional US Senate

This week it is the turn of George Packer, the noted journalist, columnist for Mother Jones, author and playwright, to write on the United States Senate. Taking to the pages of the New Yorker to pen this latest installment of what has become an all too regular occurrence among observers of our body politic, Packard asks the now oft-repeated question of just how broken is the Senate?

The answer is very. His twelve page masterful essay, full of insightful anecdotes and telling quotes, traces the descent of the Senate. Once a "cozy atmosphere that encouraged both deliberation and back-room deals," the Senate has become a dysfunctional, fractious chamber populated by “ideologues and charlatans” - to quote the oft-used characterization made by the Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein - who are governed by arcane, byzantine, and frankly absurd procedures and incapable of producing the necessary legislation or confirming the necessary appointments to keep the country moving forward. 

Packer's essay is a must read. I've opted to pull some of the anecdotes and quotes and offer some thoughts as well as add some supplementary evidence.

Michael Bennet, a freshman Democrat from Colorado, said, “Sit and watch us for seven days—just watch the floor. You know what you’ll see happening? Nothing. When I’m in the chair, I sit there thinking, I wonder what they’re doing in China right now?”

While academics and even Chinese officials are divided over whether there is such a thing as a "China model," the debate is more over whether the China model can be copied and transferred to other developing nations rather than over whether a Chinese path to development exists. Clearly, one does. The main advantage of the Chinese model is that being highly centralized decisions are made quickly and the resources committed.

To take one example, just look at the Chinese development of its rail and high speed rail transportation infrastructure. Beginning in 2005, China embarked on the second largest public works program in history, surpassed only by the Eisenhower-era Interstate Highway System in size. China plans to spend more than $1 trillion (or more than our $787 billion fiscal stimulus and as measure of comparison the Obama Administration has committed $8 billion in ARRA funds for high speed rail plus another $5 billion over 5 years) on expanding its railway network from 78,000 km today to 110,000 km in 2012 and 120,000 km in 2020 with 13,000 km being high speed rail. The Beijing-Hong Kong line would be the largest single element of the system, at more than 1,000 miles long. A comparable line in the US would run from Boston to Miami. And as our transportation infrastructure crumbles, Republican Senators would prefer to give tax cuts to the wealthy and than to reinvest in America. The monies are there but the will is lacking.

There's more...

The Dysfunctional US Senate

This week it is the turn of George Packer, the noted journalist, columnist for Mother Jones, author and playwright, to write on the United States Senate. Taking to the pages of the New Yorker to pen this latest installment of what has become an all too regular occurrence among observers of our body politic, Packard asks the now oft-repeated question of just how broken is the Senate?

The answer is very. His twelve page masterful essay, full of insightful anecdotes and telling quotes, traces the descent of the Senate. Once a "cozy atmosphere that encouraged both deliberation and back-room deals," the Senate has become a dysfunctional, fractious chamber populated by “ideologues and charlatans” - to quote the oft-used characterization made by the Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein - who are governed by arcane, byzantine, and frankly absurd procedures and incapable of producing the necessary legislation or confirming the necessary appointments to keep the country moving forward. 

Packer's essay is a must read. I've opted to pull some of the anecdotes and quotes and offer some thoughts as well as add some supplementary evidence.

Michael Bennet, a freshman Democrat from Colorado, said, “Sit and watch us for seven days—just watch the floor. You know what you’ll see happening? Nothing. When I’m in the chair, I sit there thinking, I wonder what they’re doing in China right now?”

While academics and even Chinese officials are divided over whether there is such a thing as a "China model," the debate is more over whether the China model can be copied and transferred to other developing nations rather than over whether a Chinese path to development exists. Clearly, one does. The main advantage of the Chinese model is that being highly centralized decisions are made quickly and the resources committed.

To take one example, just look at the Chinese development of its rail and high speed rail transportation infrastructure. Beginning in 2005, China embarked on the second largest public works program in history, surpassed only by the Eisenhower-era Interstate Highway System in size. China plans to spend more than $1 trillion (or more than our $787 billion fiscal stimulus and as measure of comparison the Obama Administration has committed $8 billion in ARRA funds for high speed rail plus another $5 billion over 5 years) on expanding its railway network from 78,000 km today to 110,000 km in 2012 and 120,000 km in 2020 with 13,000 km being high speed rail. The Beijing-Hong Kong line would be the largest single element of the system, at more than 1,000 miles long. A comparable line in the US would run from Boston to Miami. And as our transportation infrastructure crumbles, Republican Senators would prefer to give tax cuts to the wealthy and than to reinvest in America. The monies are there but the will is lacking.

There's more...

The Dysfunctional US Senate

This week it is the turn of George Packer, the noted journalist, columnist for Mother Jones, author and playwright, to write on the United States Senate. Taking to the pages of the New Yorker to pen this latest installment of what has become an all too regular occurrence among observers of our body politic, Packard asks the now oft-repeated question of just how broken is the Senate?

The answer is very. His twelve page masterful essay, full of insightful anecdotes and telling quotes, traces the descent of the Senate. Once a "cozy atmosphere that encouraged both deliberation and back-room deals," the Senate has become a dysfunctional, fractious chamber populated by “ideologues and charlatans” - to quote the oft-used characterization made by the Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein - who are governed by arcane, byzantine, and frankly absurd procedures and incapable of producing the necessary legislation or confirming the necessary appointments to keep the country moving forward. 

Packer's essay is a must read. I've opted to pull some of the anecdotes and quotes and offer some thoughts as well as add some supplementary evidence.

Michael Bennet, a freshman Democrat from Colorado, said, “Sit and watch us for seven days—just watch the floor. You know what you’ll see happening? Nothing. When I’m in the chair, I sit there thinking, I wonder what they’re doing in China right now?”

While academics and even Chinese officials are divided over whether there is such a thing as a "China model," the debate is more over whether the China model can be copied and transferred to other developing nations rather than over whether a Chinese path to development exists. Clearly, one does. The main advantage of the Chinese model is that being highly centralized decisions are made quickly and the resources committed.

To take one example, just look at the Chinese development of its rail and high speed rail transportation infrastructure. Beginning in 2005, China embarked on the second largest public works program in history, surpassed only by the Eisenhower-era Interstate Highway System in size. China plans to spend more than $1 trillion (or more than our $787 billion fiscal stimulus and as measure of comparison the Obama Administration has committed $8 billion in ARRA funds for high speed rail plus another $5 billion over 5 years) on expanding its railway network from 78,000 km today to 110,000 km in 2012 and 120,000 km in 2020 with 13,000 km being high speed rail. The Beijing-Hong Kong line would be the largest single element of the system, at more than 1,000 miles long. A comparable line in the US would run from Boston to Miami. And as our transportation infrastructure crumbles, Republican Senators would prefer to give tax cuts to the wealthy and than to reinvest in America. The monies are there but the will is lacking.

There's more...

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