How Newt Gingrich Crippled Congress
"How much Americans hate Congress has become cliché. Congress’s approval rating is at an all-time low, and it’s not hard to see why: the institution is broken. Plenty of structural forces have contributed to Congress’s dysfunction: the increasing flow of money in politics, the emergence of the 24/7 cable news cycle, the increasing polarization of the electorate. But perhaps no single person bears as much responsibility as Newt Gingrich."
"Of course, Gingrich’s greatest act of obstructionist brinkmanship was the 1995 and 1996 government shutdowns. Thanks to his refusal to concede on spending on social services, the government closed for five days in 1995, longer than the previous eight government shutdowns, and for a whopping twenty-one days a year later—the longest shutdown in history. Thanks to Gingrich’s obstinacy, health and welfare services for veterans were curtailed, Social Security checks were delayed, tens of thousands of visa applications went unprocessed and “numerous sectors of the economy” we negatively impacted, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Then there’s perhaps the most universally reviled practice of Congress: earmarking. Spending on earmarks doubled during Gingrich’s reign as Speaker, rising from $7.8 billion in 1994 to $14.5 billion in 1997. “Speaker Gingrich set in motion the largest explosion of earmarks in the history of Congress,” said Tom Schatz of the conservative group Citizens Against Government Waste. The pork binge was part of a Machiavellian plot to use taxpayer dollars to help Republicans get reelected, as Gingrich himself laid out in a 1996 policy memo titled, “Proposed Principles for Analyzing Each Appropriations Bill.” The memo instructed the chairmen of House Appropriation subcommittees to ask themselves if there are “any Republican members” who “need a specific district item in the bill.” This apparently included Gingrich himself, as Cobb County, Georgia, which the Speaker represented, received more federal dollars per resident than any other suburban county in the country in 1995, except for Arlington, Virginia, home of the Pentagon and other federal agencies, and Brevard County, Florida, home to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center."The Nation
"I'm not a skeptic because I want to believe, I'm a skeptic because I want to know." --Michael Shermer