This will be a short rant, as we prepare to head off to celebrate the birth of our nation with fireworks, barbeques, and the usual trappings of summer.

I spite of the celebratory mood, I am troubled by the unrelenting incompetence of the U.S. Congress. Its inability to pass even the most basic legislation is beyond baffling.

Case in point: College students who use new Stafford loans to pay for the 2014-2015 school year will see borrowing costs rise 21 percent. As of July 1, interest on new student loans rises to 4.66 percent from 3.86 percent last year, with future rates potentially increasing even more. This comes as interest rates on mortgages and other consumer credit hovered near record lows. For a comparison, the rate on the 10-year Treasury is 2.6 percent. Congress could have imposed lower limits on student-loan rates, but chose not to.

This is but one example out of thousands of an inability to perform the basic duties, which includes helping to educate the next generation of leaders and productive citizens. It goes far beyond partisanship; it is a matter of lack of will, intelligence and ability. Continues here

Category: Politics, Really, really bad calls

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

38 Responses to “Another Epic Failure From the Worst Congress in History”

  1. VennData says:

    BR says, “…I am troubled by the unrelenting incompetence of the U.S. Congress. Its inability to pass even the most basic legislation is beyond baffling…”

    The GOP does not want Obama to get any credit. It is simple, the GOP puts politics ahead if country. No objective observer can say otherwise.

    They create scandals by leaking cut and pasted pieces of evidence, scream “you lie” and say everything that has gone right really isn’t happening.

    History will not look kindly on today’s GOP.

    • Christopher says:

      You sound as if you still believe that some politicians in DC really care about you and your family…..
      Good luck with that.

      Nothing changes until K Street burns.

      • thatguydrinksbeer says:

        You sound like a republican.

      • Iamthe50percent says:

        I learned long ago that politicians only care about how thick the envelope you hand them is.

      • DeDude says:

        You appear to have been infected by the GOP business brainwork. If they can get you to believe that its all the same and the fight is so big that it cannot be won – then you are more likely to give up in disgust. The fact is that there is a progressive wing of the democratic party that would push us in the right direction if it were to get strong enough. But as Berry noted most voters are to lazy to learn and do anything – its so much easier to spout some good sounding BS that will get you off the hook.

  2. A says:

    Barry, this dilemma is more universal than you may know.

    Up in Canada, in the province of Ontario, the reigning Liberal party was provided with a majority government by 20% (!!?) of the electorate. And a large part of that 20% are public service employees and their unions.

    At some point, you have to ask if we really live in a democracy any more.

    • Iamthe50percent says:

      Sounds democratic to me. Or do you consider public service employees/ union workers to be subhuman?

    • funkright says:

      I can see that you don’t support the party that managed to gain greater support in your last provincial election, but from what I understand public service employees and union members are part of the overall electorate and do sorta deserve the right to vote in elections as well. What is happening within the US Congress isn’t exactly comparable, we as Canadians (and I don’t live in Ontario and I am a Conservative voter) haven’t quite got to the same point as our friends to the south (God help us if we do).

    • rj chicago says:

      A –
      Be mindful of the use of the word ‘democracy’ that in its original derivation means “mob rule’ if I am not mistaken.
      You noted; “the reigning Liberal party was provided with a majority government by 20% (!!?) of the electorate”.
      My response: THAT sounds like a mob to me.

  3. jwagner says:

    Good article. At this point we have a two party system with both parties captured by big-money special interests. America’s voting system is broken and does a crappy job representing the will of the people. It’s hard to get enthusiastic about voting for the lesser of two evils and that’s the best we can do now. A proportional voting system – Instant Runoff Voting, for instance, would allow us to cast votes for third parties without actually helping the party we like least. This would create viable third parties and a marketplace of ideas in the public dialogue. If you want to fix our democracy, start at the beginning, the voting process.

  4. wrongtrade says:

    Mr. B, I am a longtime reader and I am very respectful of the comments policy, both the “legacy” policy and the new, improved policy after a couple legendary Mr. B comment rants. But why, WHY do yopu allow VennData to rant about republicans so much. I think there is enough blame to go around, not just, “The GOP does not want Obama to get any credit. Please
    Our immigration policies, justice system/lack of tort reform, our tax code, disability system, health care system is all a disgrace of special interest lobbying placed above the interests of the taxpayer citizens of the country.
    Please don’t ruin my experience with one of the finest finance blogs by apparently giving VennData an exception to the normally sane ‘comments’ rules

    • DrSandman says:

      VennData might as well be an unfiltered BR, and BR is pretty straight-up unfiltered to begin with.

      Try getting them to admit that the federal government taking over the student-lending business and squeezing the public and private banks out was a bad idea, and that increased borrowing costs from a monopoly lender would happen — everybody now — “unexpectedly.”

    • Iamthe50percent says:

      “taxpayer citizens” I take then that the unemployed are not allowed to have interests?

    • DeDude says:

      If you believe that the comments of VennData are not “sane” then you should have no problems pointing out where and why they are wrong. Seem a little weak to attack an opinion you do not like with a demand that it should be removed rather than with arguments and facts to demonstrate that it is not “sane”. This blog has a much larger spread of opinions from left to right than the right wing blabber on most financial blogs – that is a strength not a weakness.

  5. stonedwino says:

    Reporting it like you did and the media does perpetuates the problem…

    It is not Congress, it is the REPUBLICANS! What a fucking cabal…


    ADMIN: BR replies “That is a different article”

  6. Expat says:

    Barry, this was not a failure. Why was this a failure? No failure here.
    Your basic assumption was wrong. You bizarrely assumed that our “elected” officials in Congress are interesting in helping educate our youth. You oddly thought that students should get some sort of socialized education. You perplexingly hoped that young people would not become debt slaves as they turned 18.

    Congress did not fail. Congress mandated a massive transfer of money to the organizations and banks running the student load program. Basically Sallie Mae makes billions and the money is channeled to its investors. And you know who they are, right. So it’s one big machine churning out pointless diplomas and Starbucks’ baristas with $400k in student loans.

    This, Barry, is business. It’s capitalism. It’s America at its best (well, second-best…our best is blowing the shit out of brown people in the 3rd World).

    So, on behalf of the facist whore-mongering 0.01% oligarchy running this nation, I recommend you cease and desist with your Marxist calls for lower rates on students loans. We know where you live!

    America is doomed. And, frankly, that’s really not a bad thing at all.

  7. NoKidding says:

    Term limits.


    ADMIN: How will that impact voters who are unengaged and not voting?

    • jwagner says:

      Term limits actually make things worse in a system controlled by special interest money. Please explain how that might not be the case.

      • NoKidding says:

        “Term limits actually make things worse in a system controlled by special interest money”

        What makes you say that?

      • willid3 says:

        well if we elect new legislators who actually a) dont have any idea what it means to do their job, B) dont actually care to do it to begin with
        but then maybe thats what we already have, and technically have always had.

        since it takes money to get elected, it means they will always be beholden to them, so they can keep their job.

    • NoKidding says:

      “How will that impact voters who are unengaged and not voting”

      Hopefully it will impact them in a bad enough way that they stop being unengaged for a while.

    • Iamthe50percent says:

      Elections are term limits. You don’t like them? Vote for their opponents! And vote in primarys. Don’t hide behind “I don’t want to declare my Party”. If you won’t even stand up and declare which party you support, don’t complain about the politicians. There are some loud Tea Party people where I work. They are dead wrong, but I commend them for having the courage of their convictions, albeit their ideas are stupid and suicidal.

  8. Molesworth says:

    Agree with all.
    The GOP is winning. They want you to hate and distrust government and believe that government is bad. Their strategy is working.
    Faith in the ability of government to solve problems is at an all time low.

    Regarding citizen participation, two solutions: vote by mail and nonpartisan blanket primaries. Oregon has done vote by mail successfully for years and has the nations highest turnout out rate. Blanket primaries: open primaries and top two winners run in general election, regardless of party, solves the gerrymander issue because the candidates have to tack center to win independents. California has just started it. Washington and Louisiana do forms of it.

    When I am older and wealthier and can devote myself to a cause, or when I am famous and have a bully pulpit, I would push for those changes in voting rules.
    Plus the popular vote presidential election, be it actual vote count or proportional electoral college allocation. The latter is messier and sillier but would not require a change to the Constitution.

    • Iamthe50percent says:

      Or electoral vote by congressional district and state winner takes the other two electoral votes. I think somebody is doing that right now.

      • Molesworth says:

        You might want to do your own research. My understanding is the electoral vote by congressional district would make things less “democratic” because congressional districts are not apportioned by population. There are more sparsely populated, rural “traditionally red” districts than heavily populated, urban “traditionally blue” districts.
        For example, in 2012 Presidential Election Vote:
        Obama: Votes 62,611,000 51.0% Electoral 332
        Romney: Votes 59,134,000 47.2% Electoral 206

        Had the election been decided by Congressional Districts, Romney would have won the election in Electoral Votes:
        Obama 262 Romney 273

        Vote by distriction is something the GOP is pushing because they would have a decided advantage.

        Both scenarios above show the inanity of the Electoral College system.

        (Keep in mind, it was designed at a time when there was no internet, no telephone, no telegraph. State representatives traveled by coach and horseback. So, for those who cling to the concept, enough with the “oh but the founding fathers”… If the founding fathers had the internet, they would have mandated voting by internet, have the vote ratified in 48 hours and the transition of power in three weeks, not three months. Sorry for the rant. I know that’s not you 50%, but I’m sick to death of hearing about the “wisdom” of the “founding fathers” and how we can’t change sht because it’s in the Constitution. They were great men. It’s a fine, well thought out document that could not be hammered out today, but is it not perfect.)

        Back to topic:
        Neither system above proportionally reflects the popular vote. But to win, a candidate has to work the system. I’m a Californian. We are a blue state. Lots of Republicans, but lots more Dems. Candidates don’t give a rat about California voter issues. They come here to vacuum up donations and then jet off to “swing” states. If candidates had to win proportionally in every single state, they’d focus less on the issues in Ohio and more on the larger, entire country’s issues.
        I’m going to get a glass of wine. Then I’m going on to rant about the Supreme Court and religion.
        Have a lovely 4th of July 50%!

  9. Molesworth says:

    Oh wait. Forget that I wrote the last paragraph. I just read Expat’s comment. If we are doomed, maybe I will go fishing instead or better yet move to….
    Hey, Expat, where are you? Any better there?

    Finland maybe?

  10. Whammer says:

    I don’t buy the “both sides are equally bad” argument, despite the fact that the Dems are bad. It is not the Dems spearheading the charge to higher student loan rates. And BR, who are the “extreme” left-wingers that are being nominated? I’m not seeing anything close to extreme in any quantity.

  11. 4whatitsworth says:

    Yes the politicians have won they managed to convince most that government dependence or big business is the answer to everything. I wonder when our July 4 holiday will be renamed to dependence day?

  12. Jojo says:

    “Unfortunately, until Americans start voting in larger numbers, the influence of small numbers of political extremists and big-dollar donors will have an outsize impact on who gets elected. ”
    Nope. Not only do we need larger turnout, we need better educated voters. And that is highly unlikely to occur anytime in the foreseeable future. Sigh…

  13. pekoe says:

    “Extremists from both major parties determine who runs for office. ”

    I know you said this this balanced-sounding statement to make yourself sound non-partisan and objective. Equivalency aside, the factual problem in Congress is a record low in legislation by the Republican controlled House combined with record Republican filibusters in the Senate. The numbers tell the truth. It is not “extremists on both sides” that are causing gridlock.

    What is extremism in the Democratic leadership? The dictatorship of the proletariat and forced collectivization? Yeah. As “extremists”, the Democrats are losers. They advocate for raising the minimum wage, and helping the sick and poor get care. They grovel for a few tax credits for some cause or other. The want to fix potholes and bridges. That is pretty weak extremist tea. In today’s environment, Republican extremism is too depressing to list, from unregulated and unlimited guns, xenophobia, to science as “lies from the pit of hell”.

    The real problem: Scientific Propaganda (by which I mean the application of the scientific method and data analysis to progressively refine and target propaganda for the purpose of gaining and maintaining political power). The scientific application of propaganda to extremist segments of the population in order to gain political power is what has driven our progressive political extremism. After applying manure and water to weeds, we then act surprised that the weeds grow at the expense of the flowers. A party that used to be only really committed to the 1% had to use scientific propaganda to get to 51% and win power. Now they find themselves engulfed in the weeds, and complain that someone else has killed all the flowers.

  14. Christopher says:

    It’s all about the money.
    All DC politicians are there for the money…regardless of the color of their neck tie.
    The money source is K Street.
    If you want to take your government back K Street must burn.
    Until then nothing changes.

  15. romerjt says:

    Interest rates on student loans are the real problem its the fact that many are “sub-prime” for student who will never graduate. About 2/3 of the seniors go off to college about half graduate from 4 yr schools and 25% or less from community colleges. Since the 1970 college admissions have increased by about 40% while the actual number of 17 yr olds has increased only slightly , , , and academic achievement has gone down. There are colleges that are almost like the mortgage brokers in the real estate crisis as college presidents do what they can to create make-work for the academic class. Who can resist the idea of sending more kids to college if if they have no chance of succeeding?

    There is a game going on here supported by the American belief in opportunity and luck. Hey, maybe the kid who didn’t like to read, couldn’t write and never tuned in assignments on time will be transformed by the graduation speech and every once in while some are. Hey Ya never know.

    As someone who taught high school senior for many years I saw this up close and personal. This is an extremely wasteful and inefficient way to try and achieve and educated workforce. If it weren’t for the fact that cocktail hour is approaching I would dig out some data to back this up.

  16. rd says:

    Thad Cochran worked hard to expand the voter base for his runoff in Mississippi and has been getting lambasted for it:

  17. Somehow, I have an idea if we chose randomly from the posters here and over on Bloomberg and replaced our current crop of lawmakers with them . . . we’d get much the same result. That’s not a criticism . . . just a reflection of the polarization in the country at large:

    Political Polarization in the American Public (Pew)

    Have a happy Fourth of July, one and all.

  18. bigsteve says:

    I have been a super voter since I first was qualified to vote over forty years ago. If you live in a gerrymandered district like I do and live in a state that does not have open primaries don’t be stupid. Registration in what ever party is dominate in your district so your vote can matter at the only place where it counts in the primary.

    Uneducated and uninformed voters who are manipulate by misinformation, fear tactics which includes racial fears are the voters who turn up in the primaries while most voters sit at home. This gets the most extreme people nominated . You are right Mr. Ritholtz , the solution to our present stinky government is for people to get off the couch, get informed and vote. It does make a difference. In 2012 in Florida people stood in line to vote for many hours in bad conditions because of obstacles place by politicians to discourage people from voting. But Obama won Florida despite all the predictions he would not because more people voted and the over all vote represented the overall demography.

  19. ravenchris says:

    One term in Congress in one lifetime.