The Problem With Congress

Neil Degrasse Tyson

You know what my concern is about Congress? I checked these numbers: 57% of the Senate, 38% of the House cite “law” as their profession. And, when you look at law, law is … well what happens in the courtroom? It doesn’t go to what’s right, it goes to who argues best. And there’s this urge, the entire profession is founded on who the best arguers are….
And I said, “There’s no scientists? Where are the engineers? Where’s the rest of life represented?”
Neil deGrasse Tyson

According to The Economist members of the 114th Congress are 66 times as likely compared with the average American to be lawyers. For Senate Democrats, the figure is 112 times.

Kevin Ashton
Talking while acting is useful, but talking about acting is not—or, at least, not often, and not for long….
[C]reation is doing, not saying. The most creative organization prioritize rituals of doing; the least creative organizations prioritize rituals of saying, the most common of which is the meeting…. There is no creating in meetings. Creation is action, not conversation.
How a Fly a Horse
By Kevin Ashton
If the present Congress errs in too much talking, how can it be otherwise in a body to which the people send one hundred and fifty lawyers, whose trade it is to question everything, yield nothing, and talk by the hour?
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Nick Li

Nick Li

Many of our elected officials’ important duties involve running the economy, allocating resources and budgets, and analyzing policies based on their inputs and expected outcomes, yet lawyers have less experience at this than businessmen and economists (the next most common professions in politics). When it comes to deciding on whether to join a currency union, how to direct a trade negotiation, whether to cut taxes or how to design a social program, lawyers appear dangerously under-qualified compared businessmen and economists.

When we are confronted with the greatest crises in the world today – global warming, disease, energy scarcity – lawyers appear to be dangerously under-qualified compared to scientists, doctors and engineers. Lawyers tend to have little substantive expertise in any of these areas, and it is their skill at “politics” rather than “policy” that seems to have enabled their political success.
Decreasing the domination of politics by lawyers will mean that we have achieved some progress in reigning in the influence of money.
Norman Augustine

Norman Augustine

I’ve visited more than 100 countries in the past several years, meeting people from all walks of life, from impoverished children in India to heads of state. Almost every adult I’ve talked with in these countries shares a belief that the path to success is paved with science and engineering.

In fact, scientists and engineers are celebrities in most countries. They’re not seen as geeks or misfits, as they too often are in the U.S., but rather as society’s leaders and innovators. In China, eight of the top nine political posts are held by engineers. In the U.S., almost no engineers or scientists are engaged in high-level politics, and there is a virtual absence of engineers in our public policy debates….
I’ve always wanted to be a teacher; in fact, I took early retirement from my job in the aerospace industry to pursue a career in education. But I was deemed unqualified to teach 8th-grade math in any school in my state. Ironically, I was welcomed to the faculty at Princeton University, where the student newspaper ranked my course as one of 10 that every undergraduate should take.
The World Economic Forum ranks the U.S. #51 in quality of math and science education.
Elon Musk

[Elon] Musk echoed the view that most U.S. government contracts go to large companies, in part because there was a tendency, in the way things are set up, to incentivise the contractor to maximise the return. But “what matters is not the contract but what is costs the tax payer,” he said. Instead, it would be wise for governments to move away from “Cost, Plus” contracts and move to the absolute amount and the quality of service. And also to tie payment to performance. He said the contract SpaceX won was “unusual” in that it was fixed price and milestone based.

At a societal level he said many more people should go into science and manufacturing than high finance and the legal system. He also said it was good for people to go back and forth between government and the private sector, as it was something that created a “good feedback loop” and could lead to sensible decisions.
Musk said it was important that societies create an environment where it’s “important it’s seen as a socially desirable thing to be an entrepreneur….” At the same time he bemoaned the numbers of people who have gone into the “Hedge Funds and the law” and not into science and engineering.
George Lakoff
Democracy is based on citizens caring about and taking responsibility for both themselves as for the well-being of all. Government is the instrument that citizens use to guarantee protection and empowerment for all. We all, together, provide what is needed for a decent life. Individual accomplishment rests on what other Americans have provided and keep providing.
Building the economy requires public investment — in public infrastructure, education, research, and much more.
Success is much more than money. It is your contribution to America as a whole — whether it is teaching, raising children, providing food, healing the sick, making useful products, guaranteeing our rights and our safety, or running businesses that make life better. America needs us all. And we all depend on each other.
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