Here is an unpublished editorial I wrote on January 30, 2012. It mostly still applies today.
The media are often considered our fourth branch of government, which provides checks to the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. In 1972 the writers from the Washington Post checked the executive branch by providing its own investigation, without warrant, and unearthed evidence necessary to impeach President Nixon. Currently the media are providing a check on the legislative branch, after having exposed Insider Trading practices in Washington. In November the CBS program 60 Minutes aired a broadcast that questioned trading practices of prominent members of Congress, suggesting that they had insider information before purchasing stocks on New York Stock Exchange. Less than three months later, Congress has already created a bi-partisan bill that will pass sometime in the next week banning members of Congress from trading stock based on inside information.
The most recent Gallup poll shows that Congress’ approval rating is around fourteen percent. This low approval rating can be largely attributed to congress’ do-nothing tendencies, which have been demonstrated throughout the course of the last year. Last November the joint Congressional super-committee failed to agree upon a plan trim $1.2 billion off the federal deficit, and now Congress is late with its budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Congress is unable to do its job properly because it values partisan politics more than it values its Constitutional obligations and duties: to cooperate internally and to pass bills. John Boehner and the Republicans blame the Democrats for being unwilling to cut necessary programs to balance the budget, and the Democrats blame the Republicans for both being unwilling to raise taxes, and for not accepting Democrat budget cuts when they are proposed.
Congressional quarrels extend well beyond the budget. Last year Congress passed fewer bills than any Congress since records started to be kept in 1947. Yet when it comes to public exposure and potential threats towards their own reputations, like during the most recent matter of Insider Training, Congress has been more than willing to cooperate. This form of exposure is not a check that I believe the Founding Fathers had anticipated, but it now provides an unavoidable means by which legislation is now created and executed.
Brian D. King, Mesa, AZ.