Beyond polarization: Why fixing a broken Congress matters

We often forget that Congress is more than elected officials – it is also a workplace for staffers, serving members in all sorts of ways. As cuts to staff and budget gradually hollowed out Congress’ capacity, the legislative branch needs public support and resources to do its work. Our video explores this issue, with a little help from modeling clay.

We often blame partisan politics for dysfunction in Congress. But that’s not the whole story.

Despite public perception that the legislature has too many staff and employees are overpaid, cuts to staff and budget over the years have actually hollowed out Congress’ capacity to do its work. A study by the nonprofit Congressional Management Foundation shows only 6% of senior congressional staff think members have enough time and resources to work on legislation.

Long days and low pay have also made Congress a less-than-ideal workplace, especially for the nation’s best and brightest. Why deal with the grind on Capitol Hill when lobbying firms and the private sector offer better opportunities?

Like any business, Congress needs a well-supported staff to do its job, which requires a careful balance of crafting smart laws, responding to constituents, and keeping a check on executive power. “[A]t the end of the day, if you are a voter and you care about reducing the power of special interests, and you care about making sure that Congress has the ability to assert itself against the executive branch, you want a stronger, better-resourced Congress,” says Molly Reynolds at the Brookings Institution.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.