Reasons Americans Hate Congress

Speaker of the House swearing in new members of the US Congress
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If there's one thing that unifies an otherwise bipolar electorate, it's Congress. We hate it. The American public has spoken and it has almost zero confidence in their lawmakers' ability to solve problems. And this is no secret, not even to those who walk the halls of power.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat from Missouri, once joked that Satan is more popular than Congress, and he's probably not too far off.

So why does Congress so irk the American public? Here are five reasons. 

It's Too Big

There are 435 members of the House of Representatives and 100 members of the Senate. Lots of people think Congress is way too big and expensive, especially when you consider it appears to accomplish very little. Also: There are no statutory term limits and there's no way to recall a member of Congress ​once they've been elected.

It Can't Get Anything Done

Congress has let the federal government shut down, on average, once every two years over the past 37 years because lawmakers could not reach accord on a spending deal. In other words: Government shutdowns are as frequent as House elections, which occur every two years. There have been 18 government shutdowns in modern U.S. political history.

It's Overpaid

Members of Congress are paid a base salary of $174,000, and that's way too much, according to public-opinion polls. A majority of Americans believe members of Congress - a majority of whom are already millionaires - should earn less than $100,000 a year, somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000. Of course, not everyone feels that way.

It Doesn't Seem to Work a Whole Lot

The House of Representatives has averaged 137 "legislative days" a year since 2001, according to records kept by the Library of Congress. That's about one day of work every three days, or fewer than three days a week. The perception is that members of Congress don't work a whole lot, but is that a fair assessment?

It's Not Very Responsive

How would you feel if you took the time to write a detailed letter to your member of Congress explaining your concerns about the particular issue, and your representative responded with a form letter that began, "Thank you for contacting me regarding ________. I appreciate your views on this important issue and welcome the opportunity to respond." This kind of thing happens all the time, though.

Congressmen Waffle Too Much

It's called political expediency, and elected officials have mastered the art of taking positions that will maximize their chances of getting re-elected. Most politicians will cringe at being labeled a waffler, but the truth of the matter is all elected officials and candidates would agree their positions shift constantly. Is that such a bad thing? Not really.

They Keep Spending More Than They Have

The biggest federal deficit on record is $1,412,700,000,000. We can debate whether that's the president's fault or Congress' fault. But they both share in the blame, and that's probably a reasonable sentiment. Here's a look at the biggest budget deficits on record. These numbers are certain to make you even more angry at your Congress.

It's your money, after all.

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Murse, Tom. "Reasons Americans Hate Congress." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Murse, Tom. (2020, August 26). Reasons Americans Hate Congress. Retrieved from Murse, Tom. "Reasons Americans Hate Congress." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 28, 2023).