This weekend I went to a one-day university and saw four different lectures (as usual, about half were good, one was OK, and one was a soft-of WTF). In one of those lectures, a Brown professor kept talking about Congress being "dysfunctional".
It strikes me that it is time to demand that people define what they mean by this. A lot of people, I think, would answer that they mean that Congress is dysfunctional because it has not passed X, where X is immigration reform or climate change legislation or a repeal of Obamacare or a list of many other things. But in these cases, I am not sure it is fair to say that lack of Congressional action really represents dysfunctionality when the public itself is sharply and somewhat evenly divided on the issues themselves.
No one can best me in a competition of disdain for elected officials. But I am always suspicious that folks using the whole dysfunctional Congress meme are really using it as a proxy for a strong desire to keep expanding government. After all, are we really facing a shortage of laws that Congress desperately needs to address? Is Congress somehow greedily hording laws in a time of need?
In the spirit of defining terms, I will say what I think is dysfunctional about Congress: When it fails to fulfill its Constitutionally-mandated roles. It is not required to pass immigration legislation, but it is required to pass a budget and give up and down votes on appointments. Neither of these tasks have been accomplished very well over the last few years. Again, Congress is not required to give the President what he wants (as the media seems to imply, at least when the President is a Democrat), but they are required to pass some sort of budget and take a vote in a reasonably timely manner on appointments.