When it comes to our view of Congress, we are the boy who cried "worthless." Congress is suffering record-low approval ratings, but it's not like our elected leaders were ever all that popular. Another valley was in 1992, when just 18 percent of Americans approved of Congress despite it having been a little legislation factory, as you can see in NPR's chart at left. Congress's approval rating was 19 percent in 1979 and in 2008, according to Gallup, slower years but far more productive than in 2011. Passing more stuff doesn't make Congress more popular. So you can see why low approval ratings might not give Congress much of an added push to lift itself out of record-low productivity. Nevertheless, we'd like to offer a visual representation of this week's failure to do much beyond symbolic measures.
The Paycheck Fairness Act. On Tuesday, Senate Republicans blocked a bill that included several measures to ensure women get paid the same as men if they have the same job. It would have made filing gender discrimination lawsuits easier and would have prevented employers from barring employees from finding out their coworkers' salaries. The Associated Press called it a "a choreographed showdown." (Photo via Kheel Center, Cornell University via Flickr.)