Reforming Congress: Taking It Back To Formula
A Broken System
Congressional approval ratings are at an all-time low with only 9 percent in favor of the job Congress is doing. The 2011 legislative session has been the least productive session since 1995.
Whether or not it is the worst Congress or not is subjective, but it has sparked a discussion among thinkers and policymakers about whether it will only get worse.
Fareed Zakaria is the host of CNN's international affairs program GPS, and editor at large for Time magazine and a columnist for The Washington Post.
Author, CNN host and all-around big thinker Fareed Zakaria thinks that it will. He recently wrote a column suggesting it may be time to acknowledge that the Founders maybe didn't get it right in the end.
"The Founders were obsessed with the problem of absolute power," Zakaria tells NPR's Raz. "They were trying to ensure there would never be the kind of absolute monarchy that they were running away from."
That fear of concentrated power is what formed our current system of shared, checked and divided power, Zakaria says. But he says that now has resulted in a system that is so onerous that it is very difficult to get anything done and solve the problems America faces.
"The system in Washington is so unwieldy that in order to get everybody to agree, [it] would seem to take a miracle and would perhaps take decades," he says. "Meanwhile these problems are compounding themselves."
While some might say the current gridlock in Congress is a product of personalities and not necessarily the system itself, Zakaria disagrees. He cites the British parliamentary system, where the prime minister's ruling party controls both the executive and legislative branches, which allows them to move forward and pass legislation much faster.
"Then four years, five years later the voters decide whether it worked and they can throw the bums out," he says. "I just worry that we have reached a stage where it is simply impossible to exercise power at the speed that the 21st century needs."
Zakaria doesn't think the U.S. will ever go to a parliamentary system, nor is he advocating it. But he does think that we should have a system that more easily allows the majority in power to govern, and then voters can decide if they liked what happened or not.
Dismissing claims that the problems can be blamed on a particular politician or any one set of politicians, Zakaria says the structure of our government, originated by the Founding Fathers, is at the root of the problem and needs to be addressed.
"I think we, as Americans, really are reluctant to do that because we have this mythology of the Founding Fathers being demi-gods who came to Earth and gave us a perfect Constitution," he says. "But, there were flaws in the document."
In fact, revisiting the Constitution and looking at what needs to be fixed, updated and streamlined, would be in the very spirit of the Founding Fathers, Zakaria says.
"[These] were practical men of the Enlightenment who believed in looking at facts [and] trying to figure out a system," he says. "We need to bring that spirit back all these years later."...