I don't pay much attention to opinion polls, because they're only as good as the pollster, and many of them are faulty in one way or another. But you don't have to be a Harvard Business School graduate to realize that the average voter has little or no respect for government, from the top down.

It isn't any wonder that the daily commuter from White Plains to Grand Central, or from Mineola to Penn Station, who's just trying to get to work and survive, is totally confused by the idea that the U.S. government is about to shut down for the second time in recent years. Shut down? How do you shut down the government of the world's No. 1 democracy?

Washington, D.C., today isn't what it used to be. Once upon a time, men and women with the stature of giants walked the halls of the U.S. Congress. During their tenure, America built new roads and bridges, created veterans' hospitals and preserved precious lands for the national park system. Federal dollars were directed at curing diseases, and somehow even the poorest of people got a break through college assistance grants and, yes, things like food stamps.

Today's Congress isn't what it used to be. By and large, the leaders with dreams for the future are almost all gone, having been replaced by legislators with narrow philosophical thinking and, in some cases, a hatred of the government and everything it stands for. There are still a few good people traveling each week to Washington, and we're blessed to have many of them in this region. I can easily name a dozen of them.

The days of House Speakers Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, Sam Rayburn, John McCormack and Carl Albert are gone.

There are 435 members of the House of Representatives, so it's hard to believe that 40 of them could throw the government into a state of pure turmoil. How could 40 elected officials be able to close the park system, shut down the passport offices and force the vast majority of federal employees to sit at home for an indefinite period of time? The answer is simple: Government in Washington is broken. The days of House Speakers Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, Sam Rayburn, John McCormack and Carl Albert are gone. Poor John Boehner is a House speaker by title only. He is, metaphorically speaking, an empty suit trying to hold on to his title and its fancy perks. Appease 40 of the 233 Republican members who want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and if you don't, you're out of a job. You don't have to be a student of government to realize that at least the House of Representatives is paralyzed.

Are there other issues that our elected federal officials should focus on instead of repealing health care for 30 million Americans? There are plenty. After the horrendous killing of a group of employees at the Washington Naval Yard, questions should be raised about the lack of security at federal facilities. America is making great strides toward becoming energy-independent, no longer reliant on Arab oil. How do we accelerate that effort, and how quickly can we do it? How do we make college more affordable for students drowning in debt?

The list of unfinished business in Washington is longer than you can imagine. Our economy is still in need of help from Congress. Our bridges and roads are in disrepair. There is a growing gap between rich and poor in this country, and nothing is being done to address it. Our college graduates are struggling to find jobs and begin meaningful careers. These issues are a lot more important than the battle by a few Tea Party zealots to repeal a health care program that is the law of the land.

Jerry Kremer's new book, Winning Albany, was released October 8, 2013.

Jerry Kremer
About The Author Jerry Kremer [Full Bio]
Jerry Kremer was a New York State assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Jerry’s new book, Winning Albany, was released on October 8, 2013.


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