Let the world change you... and you can change the world

The Broken Senate

If there was any doubt that the U.S. Senate is broken beyond repair, Sen. Jim Bunning removed all doubt last week when his one-man crusade against the unemployed caused some 400,000 to lose their unemployment benefits during one of the worst economic periods in the history of the country. As has been noted in many places, Bunning’s action made absolutely no sense at all for any number of reasons. This is one move that you can’t even chalk up to plain old stupidity or good old fashioned right-wing self-centeredness. The only explanation here is that this guy is just bat-shit crazy.

Clearly something needs to be done to fix the Senate — it’s one thing to be “protecting the rights of the minority” with some of the weird rules of the Senate, but one-man stands like this certainly have to be done away with. But what about this silly “60 vote super-majority” that is apparently needed to pass anything of substance in the Senate? I can understand how this concept might have made some sense back in the good old days when there were only 13 states and thus 26 Senators, and I’m guessing there wasn’t all that much difference in the population of the various states. But these days when you have over 50% of the population living in just 10 states, how much sense does it make that in the Senate the smaller 40 states have the exact same representation as the most populous states? Even if you did away with this 60-vote requirement, you would still have an incredibly skewed representation in the Senate.

Right now you hear a lot of progressives bemoaning the Senate rules and calling for wholesale changes. But the obvious problem is what happens when the pendulum inevitably swings back to the conservatives — and progressives need these rules to prevent the Sen. Bunnings of the world from totally destroying the country. Just look at the disaster that the 8-year Bush administration was — what would that have been like with relaxed rules in the Republican controlled Senate in Bush’s first six years? You think things are bad now, at least the country is still standing. And given the wholesale stupidity of so many Americans, combined with the greed and selfishness of American conservatives these days, perhaps these silly Senate rules that protect us from ourselves are indeed wise.