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Are historically low congressional approval ratings paradoxically a sign of an effective government?

Are historically low congressional approval ratings paradoxically a sign of an effective government?
I believe they are because if congress 'does too much', they can create irreparable consequences. It's better for congress to intercede as little as needed and let autonomous business and consumption forces run the economy and country. Only during times of pressing crisis (2008 bank meltdown, 911) does congress need to act, and they have as evidenced by the efficacy and expediency of the TARP bank bailout and 911 terror response.

When congress is hated, it's because they are not catering to anyone's whims. The right wing wants program X the; left wants the opposite. And if either of their wishes are satisfied the result could be deleterious. Let's do nothing.

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    Jan 10 2013: Polls mean nothing. I worked in analysis and can make numbers that you want to see by asking the right questions and using the figures of choice.

    Tune in your channel of choice and you will hear what you want and all of the figures will be what you want. Tune in another and they have it all wrong. This is not by accident.

    Poll takers and those sample people at the mall do not ask everyone who passes by. They have a specific demographic that will provide them the desired result.

    When I hire you to do a study of my company ... I want you to validate my efforts. I brief you on what I have done. Where I want to go. Etc ... Now you can tell me how stupid I am ... or you can guide me in a direction that says you done did good and this will help achieve your goal if you add this and do that .... Yep I'll hire you again. Tell me how dumb I am and I will get another company and tell my CEO buddies about our failure ....

    Congress is all about money, power, ego ... Do you really think they care about you .... they care about being re-elected and remaining in the most elite club in the USA. They do insider trading (Pelosi and Visa), cater to big money, and fall to lobbiests and unions. They promise transparency and great deals during the campaign ... has any of this came to pass.

    We re-elect a bum ... because he is still better than the other bum

    There is not a single member of Congress that is not a millionaire .. but sell you a bill of goods ... that you bought .. that they hate the rich.

    Every year they tell us how stupid we are and we applaud and write checks for campaigns and vote them back in. All the while bitching about Congress. They exempt themselves from the very laws they pass for us. One of us is not to bright ... Some how I don't think it is them.

    What makes you the "smartest one"? With that kind of ego .. we will see you in Congress .. under another alias.
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      Jan 10 2013: I concur with your observation of polls.
      In fact, when I worked in telephone polling, it was shown that the response could be influenced simply by changing the inflection in the voice asking the question. (Polls are conducted using strict scipts). The polsters were paid per-completed-interview, so those of us who engaged teh pollee best - got bettter completion rates. These days, online polling is computer analysed using language anlysis widgets.
      I happen to be a participant in a major selection for a local national poll - so I manipulate the statistical outcome by repeating key words in my replies to skew the hyperlexicon result.

      I observe that a threshold occurs when any given institution begins to spend more resource on institutional control than on the goals of the institution - i.e. when the administrative budget exceeds project funding. At that point, one can say that the institution has formed a self-organising system, and will proceed to organise for itself to the exclusion of any external mandate.

      When an institution is "fueled" by money (currency representing value-units), it is effectively parasitic on the time/effort of the community it serves. When the rubicon of self-organisation is crossed, the institution will bend all efforts to the maximisation of cash-flow. This will place increasing burden on the community.
      It will have the affect of shifting attention from general community resource to the more specific concentrations of wealth to be had elsewhere (corporations). In effect it becomes a pinacle food chain feeder.
      In the case of a legislative institution, any member of the community unable/unwilling to feed the institution or the corporations becomes criminalized. I note the efficiency of feeding such victims to the incarceration corporations - forming a positive feedback-loop.

      As well as looking at approval ratings, one should look at incarceration rates - it would be very interesting to see the correlation.
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        Jan 11 2013: Mitch, Long time no hear from you. Thanks for the reply. I hope that the fires have not effected you or yours.

        Wish you well.

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          Jan 12 2013: Thanks Bob,
          Fires have not gotten here yet.
          Even though we have never seen such heat, the winds have been relatively low. The fires, although intense, are controlable (more or less).
          We have had exteme wind events recently - if the heat and wind coincide, we will see a fire the likes of which will dwaf the terrible fires in Victoria last year.
          But that's off topic.

          On topic: The crisis in democracy is all part of the same dynamic. More and more great thinkers are beginning to see the thing holistically.

          Being a bit slow, what I am beginning to see, is a caused relationship between all the hockey-stick graphs. At first I assumed that one of them must be causal - specifically population - but it is an open system, with positive feedback loops connecting the symptoms in a circular manner.
          These behave like harmonic vortices in a turbulence system - one has to ask "what is the element causing the destabilising energy increase?"
          It is not just humanity - we've been here for at least 150 thousand years.
          I am convinced that the driving factor lies in agriculture.
          It is not so much agriculture itself, but the nature of "property".
          Property functions as a "membrane" - a constraint of environmental energy flows.
          When one introduces an energy constraint, it causes a concentration to form within the membrane.
          Persistent energy concentrations represent a "self".
          The self we created with farming aligns with our species boundary.
          But all such concentrations give rise to a balancing reduction in energy outside the membrane.
          This all works well enough while the membrane is a constraint and not a closure.
          A closed membrane does 2 main thing - it kills everything outside the membrane and causes turbulence to subdivide energy within the enclosure.
          Turbulence is fractal - as energy rises, the turbulence drives harmonic vortices to form-up at ever reducing scale until the system becomes totally chaotic.
          It is the hardening of the notion of property which is at the root.
    • Jan 13 2013: "Poll takers and those sample people at the mall do not ask everyone who passes by. They have a specific demographic that will provide them the desired result."

      No, it's exactly the opposite: poll takers want a representation of all the demographics, that's why they choose the participants carefully. If you were polling in front of a mall you would poll all single males but only a small percentage of the women in a relationship because at a mall single males tend to be underrepresented while women in a relationship tend to be overrepresented.
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        Jan 13 2013: John, without any reservation I can tell you from experience ... you are wrong.
  • Jan 10 2013: Perhaps we should consider the whole spectrum.

    What would be the "meaning" of an approval rate of 100%?

    What would be the "meaning" of an approval rate of 50%?

    What would be the "meaning" of an approval rate of 1%?

    I don't pay much attention to approval ratings.

    For sure, Congress has work to get done, and they are not getting it done.
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    Jan 9 2013: No.

    Congrssional approval ratings are a measure of their atrophy.
    It reflects the degradation of mutual advantage produced by legislation.
    As each law begins to yield disadvantage to the nation instead of advantage, a functional void appears from which dissaproval emanates.

    This process will accellerate until groups begin to coalesce around a more effective law-sets. This process will be lead by a rapid formation of family-based tribal cells (gang bangers).
    The successful tribal cells will begin to coalesce around newly formed informal legislation governing inter-gang stability.

    The old institutional legislature will go through a period of defense against the new social cells, but by doing so, will precipitate the legislature into increasingly dissadvantageous laws thus precipitating more disaproval in the electorate - and increasing precipitation into local nascent tribes-states.
    If the national legislative istution fails to adapt to the shif tof advantage - ultimately a civil war will errupt.
    After the civil war, a reformed legislature will emerge.

    If it is possible to make such reformation before a civil war errupts is unclear - it has not been demonstrated in human history - perhaps it has never been tried? Or perhaps historical examples have not been properly assembled?
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    Jan 8 2013:

    American democracy is the reward of a political culture that not only shares common values and beliefs, but also respects individual thought on the attitude and basic functioning of the government.
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    Jan 8 2013: The real problem is the 24/7 news cycles, that has to manufacture news instead of reporting it.
    Polls indicate "congress" has a lower approval rating than germs, but individually most congressman win reelection by large margins.
    We collective say, "Throw the bums out of office." but individually expect you to vote your bum out while I reelect mine.

    "We have met the enemy and he is us."
    • Jan 8 2013: Midterm elections typically have voter turnout of less than 40% (37% is a common figure), incumbents who win often do so by small margins (or use gerrymandering to win). So it's safe to say congress has only about 20% real support among the electorate, this corresponds nicely with the approval ratings.

      Contrast this with France (which, like the US, is a presidential republic with a district based parliament) where the parliamentary elections of 2012 produced a record low turnout of 57%. If the French record low turnout is 50% higher than a typical American turnout there is something deeper going on in American democracy.
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    Gail .

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    Jan 8 2013: I understand that in today's climate, nothing from congress is better than something from congress. But the gross corruption from within congress should not be minimized or discounted. It got us unto this mess and it has no REAL interest in getting us out of it because the answers will deprive politicians of money and power.
  • Jan 8 2013: Today is a time of pressing crisis for the United States:

    - unpopular, unwinnable and costly ($90bn per year) war in Afghanistan
    - increasing competition with China over resources and dominance
    - high deficit
    - near record national debt
    - record poverty levels
    - high unemployment
    - high underemployment
    - aging/crumbling infrastructure that wastes energy
    - out of control health care costs, obesity epidemic
    - out of control higher education costs
    - record income inequality
    - political gridlock between conservatives and liberals
    - aging population
    - climate change
    - natural resources becoming scarce
    - overly expensive security apparatus
    - social strife about emerging gay rights
    - financial sector that's just as dysfunctional as it was in 2008
    - corrupting influence of big money in politics
    - record incarceration levels

    Your theory is an interesting one and may have applied to voter apathy in the near utopian Western Europe of the 1990s, but it doesn't apply to today's United States.