xiv Introduction control of governance after the 2008 crash, the picture has appeared increas- ingly dismal. Approval ratings tend to favor the political party in power and voters tend to give higher marks to their own team while vilifying others. Yet, over the last 20 years ratings for both parties have been very close. With two excep- tions—higher Democratic approvals around the 2008 recession and the 2018 elections—there has been little deviation between ratings by party. According to Gallup, party approval ratings in October 2019 were neck and neck: 34 percent for Republicans and 38 percent for Democrats. Overall, as of June 2021, 74 percent of respondents in the ongoing Gallup polls had little or no confidence in Congress.9 There has been some conjecture as to why Congress’s approval ratings are so low. Public partisan bickering, fostered by constant media access, and failure to move legislation through both chambers are the go-to answers, as are voter’s concerns about the economy. Researchers discovered another, more compelling explanation, however: “Nearly half of sitting conservative officeholders appear to believe that they represent a district that is more con- servative on these issues than the most conservative legislative district in the entire country.”10 Their findings offer explanations for the disconnect between moderates and conservatives, who have moved dramatically to the right over the last 30 years. Contrary to popular belief, the left has not moved further left nor have they become more progressive. In fact, liberals haven’t moved nearly as far left as conservatives have moved right. Today the most moderate House Republicans are more extreme than the most extreme House Republicans were in the 1970s. But that unprece- dented rightward drift is completely divorced from the American elector- ate: Since 1976, for example, the share of Americans describing themselves as “conservative” has remained virtually unchanged. While we love the Cubs more than we love our Congress, how much do we even know about members’ roles and responsibilities and those of the institution as a whole, let alone how they have changed over time? What’s the price tag for getting the job done, or leaving it undone, if we use public sentiment as our measuring tool? What is the cost of Congress? This book is for those inquiring minds who want to know: What do we— the taxpaying fans—get for our tax dollars? Unlike the other departments and agencies that receive federal funds every year, Congress controls its own checkbook. The House Committee on Appropriations and its Senate counterpart, the Senate Committee on Appro- priations, each contain a Legislative Branch Appropriation subcommittee
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