Doing Yeoman's work
They work hard for their money.
Or, maybe they just work for their money. Either way, members of Congress get paid.
There are many ways to measure the amount of work congressional members do. One way is by looking at the number of Bill's they pass per session.
Much has been made this year about the 113th Congress doing little more than showing up to work. Even that was difficult at times. They set a new bar, underperforming the infamous "Do Nothing Congress" of 1947.
I concede that simply passing Bill's does not indicate that good work was done. Sometimes you even need to repeal bills. Unfortunately for him, it looks like Congress hasn't done that in 2013 either. Sometimes, you do need to make laws. No farm bill was passed. No immigration bill. No single appropriations bill. And while a budget was passed in the waning days of 2013, along with aid to Sandy victims, it might be too little too late for this session's 2013 to be salvaged.
To be fair, just because people trust car salesmen more than Congress doesn't mean it's all bad...does it?
We can speculate all day as to why lawmakers decided to do less this year. Maybe they perferred to work less. Maybe some of them spent too much time trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Maybe they wanted to take some time off and visit America's National Parks.
Rather than speculate, it's more interesting to see the trend in the number of Bills passed by Congress over time. That's the graphic below. Since 2013 represents only one year of work (Congress is in session for 2 years), I projected the number of Bills expected to be passed to include 2014. Note that the proportion of Democrats and Republicans shown is combining both the House and Senate proportions. It's a crude approximation to who has the upper hand.
Assuming they do as much in 2014 as they did in 2013, they are slated to finish miles behind any Congress in the past 50 years. Good job.
At the same time, the amount of money they get to spend on stuff has increased. While this is expected, the rate of increase in the money they get (their appropriations) is much faster than the people they serve. You can see that the normalized rate of increase of the CPI over the same time period is much less, especially in the past 20 years. It seems that in the recent past Congress has decided to pass less Bills and receive more spending money for their time.
I wonder what would happen if they actually delivered on their promises, worked a full 8 hours a day (instead of their current average of 5-6*) and didn't waste money and time while producing less and less output.
One can dream...