January 16, 2012
By Stephen Dinan
It’s official: Congress ended its least-productive year in modern history after passing 80 bills — fewer than during any other session since year-end records began being kept in 1947.
Furthermore, an analysis by The Washington Times of the scope of such activities as time spent in debate, number of conference reports produced and votes taken on the House and Senate floors found that Congress set a record for legislative futility by accomplishing less in 2011 than any other year in history.
The Senate’s record was weakest by a huge margin, according to the futility index, and the House had its 10th-worst session on record.
Of the bills the 112th Congress did pass, the majority were housekeeping measures, such as naming post office buildings or extending existing laws. Sometimes, it was too difficult for the two chambers to hammer out agreements. More often, the Senate failed to reach agreement within the chamber.
That left much of the machinery of the federal government on autopilot, with the exception of spending, where monumental clashes dominated the legislative session.
“Absent unified party control with a bolstered Senate majority, I think it’s just very hard to get things done, particularly in a period when revenues aren’t growing and the decisions are how to cut, and how to cut in the long term,” said Sarah Binder, who studies Congress as a Brookings Institution scholar and professor at George Washington University. “Congress just isn’t very good at solving long-term problems.”
The futility record could be short-lived. The full House returns from a monthlong Christmas break on Tuesday to begin the second session, but all sides expect election-year paralysis, meaning some of the usually routine bills may run into trouble.
September 21, 2010
By: Lauren Frayer
Obesity hurts your health, but it also hurts your wallet.
That’s the conclusion of a new study by George Washington University scholars who’ve tabulated the cost of being obese, compared to merely being overweight. The results found that obesity costs women almost twice as much as men. And it’s more than nine times as costly for women to be obese, rather than just overweight.
Researchers tabulated the cost of medical bills, employee sick days, health insurance, lost productivity and even the need for extra gasoline to fuel cars carrying heavier passengers. In total, they found that the average yearly cost of being obese in America is $4,879 for a woman and $2,646 for a man.
When they factored in the idea that obesity can cut short a lifespan, the lost productivity from premature death pushed the figures higher, to $8,365 a year for women and $6,518 for a man. That’s much more expensive than just being a few pounds overweight, which researchers found cost $524 for women and $432 for men.
As for why obesity is more expensive for women, the study’s co-author Christine Ferguson told The Associated Press that previous research shows that fat women earn less on average than slim ones, but that there’s no wage gap between fat and trim men. “This indicates you’re not that disadvantaged as a guy, from a wage perspective,” she said.
The study, called “A Heavy Burden: The Individual Costs of Being Overweight and Obese in the United States,” is being released today in a webcast on GWU’s website. Its results were first reported by the AP and The Washington Post.
April 14, 2010
by Bruce Drake
Nearly seven out of 10 likely voters in this year’s election disapprove of the job that Congress has been doing this year, and both parties on Capitol Hill get almost equally high negatives, according to a George Washington University Battleground poll conducted April 5-8.
Sixty-eight percent overall disapprove of the performance of Congress, with 59 percent saying they “strongly” disapprove. Twenty-five percent approve and 11 percent are undecided.
Fifty-seven percent disapprove of the job congressional Democrats are doing and 59 percent disapprove of the performance of congressional Republicans.
Asked whether they would vote for the Republican or Democratic candidate in their district, 41 percent chose the Republican and 40 percent chose the Democrat, with 18 percent undecided. Two polls released yesterday came up with different results. Gallup said the Republicans held a 48 percent to 44 percent advantage on a generic congressional ballot while CNN/Opinion Research had the Democrats ahead, 50 percent to 46 percent.
Obama fared better than lawmakers, with 50 percent approving of his performance and 36 percent disapproving, with 7 percent undecided. But as a mark of how intense some of the opposition to him is, 40 percent put themselves in the camp of “strongly” disapproving of his performance.
When it came to who voters thought would better handle a range of issues, the Republicans tended to come out on top of both congressional Democrats and Obama on controlling wasteful spending, controlling the deficit, holding down taxes and promoting a strong national defense.
Voters put more faith in congressional Democrats on turning the economy around, reforming health care, promoting energy independence, creating jobs, and reforming Wall Street. They also came out on top by 45 percent to 40 percent on which party voters felt shared their values and by 41 percent to 32 percent when it came to “getting things done.” The balance of voters either gave the same marks to both parties, said they didn’t think either party would do better or were undecided.
The results were somewhat the same when the choice was between Obama and congressional Republicans, but Obama did not do as well as Democratic lawmakers on some of the measures. On turning the economy around, Obama and Hill Republicans were statistically tied, with Obama leading 42 percent to 41 percent, while congressional Democrats had a five-point advantage. The same was true on the “sharing your values” question, where Obama edged Republicans by only 44 percent to 32 percent, compared to the five-point advantage enjoyed by congressional Democrats.