On the other hand, 2011 is shaping up to be a fairly interesting year, not the least because the Democrats were pummeled so heavily and lost the House.
Congress right now is held largely in contempt, with congresscritters of all types rated down there with used car salesmen and the like. It is also rightly held in such contempt: largely speaking, Congress has failed to do its right and proper job under the Constitution, and hasn't since the New Deal. What is this right and proper job?
If you consider that, you can see that Congress has been irresponsible for far too long. The whole system of earmarking - aka pork - is indicative of this: it is a way of getting something done without having to stand up and push a bill through that obviously is a payoff for some congresscritters' pet project/constituency/lobbyist payoff/etc. No exceptions here: Congress has failed to fulfill its constitutionally appointed role.
What is that role?
To quote from the above link:
The Constitution gave the federal government the authority to pursue certain limited ends, like national security and ensuring free interstate commerce, but otherwise left us free to pursue our ends either through the states or as private individuals. It did not authorize the federal government to provide us with the vast array of goods and services that today reduce so many of us to government dependents.
How did Congress get into its current state? Roosevelt and the New Deal: they abdicated their responsibility to the Supreme Court to determine what was constitutionally allowed (the Supreme Court should really only decide what is not allowed, rather than what is allowed...) and gave the Executive an enormous expansion of enumerated powers.
What are enumerated powers?
Well, to quote that radical and subversive document, the Constitution of the US, Article I, Section 8:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States; [Altered by Amendment XVI "Income tax".]
To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.In addition, to put this in perspective, the 10th Amendment is worth quoting as well:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Now, this is going to out me as a strict constructionist (duh), but the Supreme Court made mistakes when it allowed the US Congress to interpret "To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper" to mean an effective carte blanche to make laws however Congress saw fit, rather than to make laws "necessary and proper".
It's all a question of perspective: how is the government allowed to spend money?
To again quote from the above link:
In 1794, for example, James Madison, the principal author of the Constitution, rose on the House floor to object to a bill appropriating $15,000 for the relief of French refugees who had fled to Baltimore and Philadelphia from an insurrection in San Domingo. He could not, he said, "undertake to lay [his] finger on that article of the Federal Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents." The bill failed.
Bingo: if such a bill were to be brought forward today, it would pass without a fight (well, at least under the last Congress). Who would want to go on record of not caring for the modern equivalent of French refugees?
Well, according to James Madison, it is not the role of the government to spend money on objects of benevolence.
It is the role of the Federal government to do what is enumerated: we are going broke trying to be benevolent.
The sooner that this is realized, the better. If you want to be benevolent, Democrats, then do it with your own damn money. Not with the money of taxpayers.
Nowhere amongst the enumerated powers is "to provide benevolence."
If "progressives" (in quotes because their policies increasingly show them to be regresssive, not progressive, i.e. harming the poor, rather than helping them) or Democrats want to provide for benevolence, let them amend the Constitution. Anything less than that is cowardly, showing that they have not the courage of their convictions.
It will be a good start to 2011 when the Constitution, for the first time, is read out aloud at the beginning of the next Congress. A very good start indeed...