If used-car salesmen ran Congress

Used car salesman

Suffering from incredibly low approval ratings, Congress is now less popular than cockroaches. We turn to some groups (slightly) more beloved by Americans for advice.

The 113th Congress has just begun, but already its lawmakers have their work cut out. Aside from big decisions looming on the budget, they are incredibly unpopular.

Just how unpopular are they? In a Public Policy Polling survey released this week, Congress was less popular than root canals, traffic jams, Brussels sprouts and other universal dislikes. People preferred head lice three times more than Congress, and almost twice as much as colonoscopies.

How can Congress improve its lot? We asked some groups that rated higher than Congress on the survey to give their advice.

Used car salesman (preferred 57-32) Car sales still suffer from past misdeeds. "Back in the day, people are getting ripped off on payment and interest rates. People who were leasing weren't told about the models and the penalties," says Frank Aparicio, internet and fleet manager at Puente Hills Subaru in California. "They all think we're liars, cheaters and thieves."

That sounds pretty similar to the American opinion of Congress. So how can they turn it around? "Customer service," says Aparicio. "Any customer service business, even our government, is supposed to be there for the people to find out what the problem is and get to the end goal - in car sales, it would be to get a certain price, get a certain product." In government, it's finding practical solutions to big problems.

He also notes the importance of telling customers what's best for them in the long run. "They may come in thinking they want one car, but when I hear what they need I'll point them to another," he says. Good advice, it seems, for Congress members too eager to play to their party's base.

Genghis Khan (preferred 41-37) Khan gets a bad rap as a brutal marauder, but life under the Mongol warlord was pretty comfortable. "He built no palace for himself, no temple, no tomb, no monument.

Genghis Khan Genghis Khan

All the wealth went to his people, beginning with widows and orphans first," according to Jack Weatherford, author of Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. So perhaps Congress should increase entitlements? But wait!

"He ended taxes for priests, doctors, and teachers, and he reduced taxes for anyone who was literate, had a craft or any other skill," writes Weatherford in an email to the BBC. So perhaps Congress should also cut taxes.

But US lawmakers are stuck at an impasse these days because they can't do both - and considering their track record, invading wealthy nations to finance this largesse, as Khan did, is out of the question.

DC political pundits(preferred 37-34) The chattering class of DC pundits is a frequent target for ridicule. These journalists and analysts try to predict the outcome of elections and interpret the will of the politicians they cover, then follow up by making excuses for why they got it so wrong.

Congress is more popular than...

  • Telemarketers (45-35)
  • North Korea (61-26)
  • The Ebola virus (53-25)
  • Meth labs (60-21)
  • Communism (57-23)
  • Gonorrhoea (53-28)

Source: Public Policy Polling

But it's hard not to notice "a perceptible tone of disgust from the pundit class as to what Washington has turned into", says David Weigel, a DC-based political reporter for Slate.

When politicians lose the pundits - a group Weigel says has a "barnacle-like" relationship with US lawmakers - things have really gone south.

But all hope is not lost. Weigel says he has seen slight signs of improvement since the 2008 presidential election. "I think it's a bit less frivolous than it was two years ago. There's still dumb legislation, " he says, like moves to repeal Obama's healthcare act. But that legislation is garnering less support.

"There's a little more reason in how they're approaching thing - not that they are doing anything particularly good," he says. But if they keep up the reasonable work, soon America might go back to scorning the pundits who cover politicians, not the politicians themselves.

Nickelback (preferred 39 to 32) The Canadian rock band has been the butt of constant jokes - but they're laughing all the way to the bank. Despite being pop-culture shorthand for "mediocre", Nickelback has sold more than 50m records world wide, and have touring deals worth between $50-70m.

Nickelback Nickelback

"They have been ridiculed for doing formulaic rock'n'roll, but one of the things that people forget is that they are giving a huge subset of fans out there exactly what they want," says Ben Paynter, a contributing writer at Bloomberg Business Week, who recently profiled the band.

In a way, that's not dissimilar to members of Congress. They may be a national joke, but many lawmakers are based out of heavily redistricted areas, protecting their seat and providing a voter base of like-minded Americans.

Many of those voters don't want compromise on issues like taxes and gun laws, and by obstructing national compromise on these issues, they are in fact helping secure their re-election.

But perhaps there is a lesson to learn from Nickelback on how to be more likeable. The band has made strides to embrace their image and be "in on the joke", says Paynter.

"To that end they've done a Funny or Die comedy sketch that went over really well, and their Twitter account now offers sarcastic tweets to people who would ridicule them on Twitter."

So if Congress can't change their obstructionist ways, they can embrace them - House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor could do a guest spot on the Big Bang Theory, playing a lawmaker trying to shut down funding for scientific research, while his Democratic counterpart, Nancy Pelosi, could say why her party's caucus is secretly trying to destroy the world, for one of David Letterman's top 10 lists.

People may not like Congress any more, but at least they'll be laughing with them, instead of just laughing at them.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Make all politicians run against none as in none of the above. Those beaten by none will be treated as deceased for political purposes. They may never run for any public office again. That will put a stop to a less than 51% rating.
    Now as to comparing congress to cockroaches - what do you have against the poor roaches that warrants such deformation as comparing them to a congressman?

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    @ Pancha #38.

    The most effective way to attract & groom such "new crop" of leaders/politicians largely depend on education sector & society.
    Since Reagan era american education, mainly the higher education, is ruined & mediocrity flourished.
    The chance to get decent leaders is decreasing as new era politicians born after 1970s with corporate "education" & ethics are replacing the baby boomers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    "If used-car salesmen ran Congress"

    Surely theirin lies the problem, that US Congress is too obsessed with gimmicks and popularity, whilst in reality serving the interests of lobbyists. Congress should concentrate on being an efficient law making body on behalf of all Americans, rather than the immature, partizan, special interest serving body that it has become

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Speaker Thomas Reed said it best:"The best system is to have one party govern and the other party watch."

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    "People preferred head lice three times more than Congress, and almost twice as much as colonoscopies."

    Perhaps a colonoscopy of the members congress would find their collective heads.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    38 Pancha Chandra

    Unfortunately most all politicians have agendas otherwise they wouldn't be there. Your memory like so many others is a bit selective...
    Kennedy...IRA sympathiser... Bay of Pigs...Vietnam

    Obama .... we can only wait and see!

    But , he's doing a great job of polarizing "Americans".

    Divide and Conquer!

    Who's next?

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Very few who run for Congress are genuinely dedicated. Most have hidden agendas or ulterior motives. Going down memory lane, there are so few of the mould of Kennedy or Lincoln. One should be thankful that there are Presidents like Clinton and Obama who bent themselves backwards to give the middle class, the poor real opportunities to improve. Hopefully a new crop of selfless leaders will follow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    15. Vince N

    Not unlike the UK, They vote for a colour usually blue or red maybe even yellow, Once one incompetent bunch who could not care what the public wants has failed they will vote for a different colour to show their displeasure......
    Or in the case of safe seats MPs can be accused of corruption on multiple occasions and still the sheep vote for them year after year like Keith Vaz

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    35 JurgenV
    Is that you Michelle?

    Sorry couldn't help it! :0

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    You forgot to ask the cockroaches for their advice:
    1. When you have nothing to say, keep silent;
    2. Take no more than you can eat;
    3. Don't try and lord it over your fellow cockroaches;
    4. Stay humble -- at the end of the day, you're still just a cockroach.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    33 crash
    Funny you should mention that. At first I thought Kate Daileys top picture was of Obama.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    The USA is run by car salesman,how else can you explain a president foisting a budget of 10 billion dollars a day,four billion of which are borrowed ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    31 MidwesternSue
    Unfortunately our current administrations successful process of polarizing "American" groups against others may have an effect on their supposed "Righteous" stand supporting defense cuts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    28:USSilentMajority:I'm more worried that the cuts we will be making in our defense will lead to our being conquered by some other country, or destroyed in the attempt by some other country to subdue us. At the moment we tend to be the world's police force and therefore hated by those who wish to do evil to others. I think Andrew Jackson is the closest we've ever come to becoming a dictatorship.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    13 DownTheShore
    "Congress is just a reflection of the narrow-mindedness and blinkered viewpoints of too many of my fellow citizens - unfortunately."

    Our present Congress may not respond exactly as I wish on every issue, but I do expect them to control an out of control administration and protect our constitutional rights which "Americans" have fought and died for!

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    21:Itswritten:Some states tried to include national office in their term limits laws and the courts told them only the federal govt could pass such a law, so it won't happen.

    22:CHW:We were sold a system of representative democracy, not a system of democracy. Anyone who wants a democracy should first read the history of Athens. Anyone can find out how their reps vote and hold them accountable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    26 MidwesternSue
    Looks like there are a lot of "educated" :) political elite on this forum, who disagree with you.
    Thank God, that for the time being, you/we still have freedom of speech!
    I worry some times that complete control will be usurped by an administration similar to China, Russia, North Korea and others to silence those that disagree.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    20:USSilentMajority:Some people want to be led and others want to lead. And sometimes respect for others requires one to accept what they say as truth, at least until the fact that they are lying is proven.

    21:Itswritten:The only qualification in the Constitution for Congressmen is that they be at least 25 years old, a resident of the state they represent, and a US citizen at least 7 years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    15:Vince N:The mainstream media is staunchly left wing with the exception of Fox News. I think one of the reasons Congress gets such a bad rap is that the press doesn't explain the conservative point of view and instead makes fun of what they think that view is. Americans are for the most part well educated, regardless of the cost of education. Money does not correlate with results in teaching.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    The worse part of any Parliament or Congress is the Party system. Representatives should only be elected on their personal Manifesto and bound by the rules to follow it. Party whips should be outlawed, and replaced by an absolute oath binding elected members to only do the best for the electorate, and where that is contentious to follow the Democratic option even against their own concience.


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