Annual Meeting: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly
Day Two of CSAC’s 118th Annual Meeting is going strong. The day started on the right foot with a very insightful and candid look at Congress by Washington Post political columnist Ezra Klein. And while the tone was somewhat pessimistic, Klein did provide county officials with a kernel of hope that, at least in California counties, the political system can work – if our elected officials work together.
Congressional approval rates stand at 9 percent. To put that in perspective, Klein pointed out that this rate is lower than approval rates for Richard Nixon during Watergate, the IRS or the percentage of Americans who want the country to be communist.
The numbers of law passed has dropped to a number that is lower than even Harry Truman’s “do nothing” Congress, he said. This lack of action has real consequences, Klein explained. He showed how the debt-ceiling fight of 2011 had a significant impact on the economy. “This was not just that people didn’t like Congress. People didn’t get jobs. People were out of work.”
The problem, though, is not solely the fault of the actual members of Congress, despite the increased partisanship. The problem, according to Klein, is the system that has been created. “The only way to change it is to change the rules of the game,” he concluded.
In discussing Congress, Klein said, “This is a different institution than it used to be – a very different institution.” The situation is magnified by the strong and divisive partisanship. “What can we do to make our political system work when people don’t get along?”
Despite hearing this analytical look at the dysfunctionality of Congress, California county officials took comfort in the fact that they can – and do — work together within their respective counties and as part of CSAC.
The day has also included workshops on issues of vital importance to California counties. Public-safety realignment was in the spotlight, featuring programs and practices that counties are employing to manage the new adult offender populations. Best practices developed by Glenn, San Benito, San Bernardino and San Mateo counties were discussed.
David Liebler is the Director of Public Affairs and Member Services for the California State Association of Counties. He can be reached at dliebler.at.counties.org.
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