Congressional grade inflation

Posted Feb. 17, 2012, at 5:32 p.m.

Congress recently received an overall grade of C-minus from 40 top academic experts who make it a habit to study that legislative body.

In the old days a C was considered average, so a C-minus would be slightly below average. And “slightly below average” is simply too high a grade for the poor-to-failing effort of the Congress in 2011.

The grade came from a survey conducted by the Center on Congress at Indiana University.

Comments by Ted Carmines, an IU political scientist who was lead author on the survey, suggested he thought the overall grade was too high with this blunt criticism of Congress:

“Congress came close this year to total failure in its main functions of making laws and being a gov-erning branch,” he said. “That view wasn’t shared by all the experts, but, overall, the grades are quite low. This was a severe assessment of Congress.”

The grade inflation came in part because the experts gave Congress good grades on “making its workings and activities open to the public” and “making a good effort to be accessible to their constituents.” In other words, they were good at showing people how inept they were and in meeting with people to try to explain themselves.

The Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind. (Feb. 15)

England’s economy

The one comfort for the British government after the most recent dismal unemployment figures — at 2.67 million, the highest since 1994 — is that the outlook is no less vile elsewhere. France, whose economy grew last year, has a rate just under 10 percent, higher than our 8.4 percent.

But that still leaves the government with hard questions to answer about its economic strategy. The combination of deficit reduction with a massive program of quantitative easing — pumping new money into the banks — may keep interest rates low but as a means of stimulating growth it is a good deal less successful than ministers hoped. The Governor of the Bank of England said growth prospects here were partly dependent on eurozone debt reduction. That’s not much comfort, given the latest crisis in Greece.

It would be in everyone’s interests if Greece were given funding to meet the repayment on its next bond redemption in March but that would not be the end of the matter. More bailouts will follow. Granted, the country’s creditors, notably France and Germany, are not just bailing out Greece but their own banks, which have large amounts of Greek debt, but patience is wearing thin. BNP Paris bas has written down the value of its Greek debt by 75 percent; others will follow.

London Evening Standard (Feb. 16)

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