Does Congress really suck?

A cool new Web site,, tries to answer the question as to whether this Congress is truly worse than the previous ones.

The site isn’t perfect, but it’s quite cool nonetheless, and a neat example of using the Internet to uniquely present information in a new way that helps you crunch data, and understand it, better.

Let me walk you through it.

Here’s the home page:

Does Congress really suck?

Among the data points looked at is the number of bills passed by each Congress (every two years). Now, some might disagree with this as a metric – I’m sure conservatives think the fewer bills the better. Still, it is potentially an indication of gridlock, or the relative lack thereof, the changing numbers of bills passed during each Congress.

Bills passed in each congress, via Does Congress Really Suck?

Probably the neatest section of the site is “The Money Trail.” This section looks at how many money lobbyists have been pumping into Congress, and which members are taking the most from each industry.  You can click on different years and see how much each industry gave in each year.  This is 2013:

Does Congress Really Suck?

Then when you click on a particular industry – I chose “pharmaceuticals” – you get the breakdown of the relative amount given to each political party, and who the top benefactors were in Congress.

Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 1.17.46 PM

This next metric, “Partisanship” based on how many independents were elected to the House, I’m not sure I buy.  America isn’t terribly fond of electing independents, so I’m not wholly convinced that this tells us much.  Maybe it does.

Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 1.19.12 PM

The last section is a live twitter feed about Congress.  Meh.

Still, it’s an innovative way to use the Web to present information in a new, more informative manner.

Though an entirely different story, this made me think of the NYT interactive Web story about “the avalanche at Tunnel Creek.”  It’s a neat way of using the Web to make a story richer.  Go to the story, then keep scrolling down and watch what happens.  It’s rather amazing.  This is the home page, below – but seriously, click through to the story and scroll.  It’s brilliantly presented.

NYT Avalanche at Tunnel Creek

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • Naja pallida

    Oh no, Congress has gone from suck to blow!

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Funny, I was just working on a site that does a detailed analysis of the same question. (I don’t know why it added twice though)

  • SkippyFlipjack


  • I’m happy enough with my subjective conclusion: Yes, Congress really, truly, epically sucks. It is a singularity of suckage.

  • It sucks no more or less than the American people it reflects.

  • Does Congress really suck? The best metric to consult is former member Larry Craig.

  • Naja pallida

    It’s nice that someone is trying to quantify the answer to a question anyone paying attention already knows. I’d also like to see a committee assignment metric added. How many science deniers are on the science committee? How many people bought by Wall Street are on the finance committees? How do their votes stack up based on committee assignment, ie do they consistently vote against the bills that make it through their own committees?

    Number of bills passed may be a lousy metric, because a “bill” can be almost anything, but when you’re doing less than Truman’s “do nothing Congress”, it is a pretty good indicator that you’re a bunch of useless ingrates, just soaking up tax payer dollars for sitting around with your thumb up your ass.

  • jomicur

    Anybody who needs a website to give them the answer to that question simply isn’t paying attention. (But I do think the site’s kind of cool.)

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Pretty cool site. When you click on a year to see the types of bills turned into laws during that congress, what do the colors mean? I don’t get the significance. (Attached are images from 2 different congresses)

    edit: Oh, they don’t mean anything; I actually attached two of the same congress viewed twice, the colors just change at random. That’s silly.

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