How low can Congress go, at least in the category of job approval? An average of seven different polls taken during the past month showed that only 15.6 percent of Americans approve of the job our law-makers are doing, while a resounding 78.7 percent disapprove — a resounding discrepancy.

Before throwing too many stones, however, we need to remember that we elected the same people we’re criticizing. Many of our senators and representatives were put in office precisely because they positioned themselves as die-hard party ideologues who signed pledges or promised to take an inflexible stand on issues like taxes or spending cuts.

If we intentionally elect intractable defenders of pet positions, how can we expect them to work together in a system that by nature calls for cooperation and compromise? It’s like trying to plunge a toilet with a hammer, and the whole mess over Congress’ self-imposed sequestration crisis is going to stink up the place until some of those hammers either undergo a radical conversion or get sent back to the toolshed and replaced with more appropriate implements.

It’s not as if there are no cooperative options available: Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, co-chairmen of the biartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, continue to promote what seems like a reasonable course, but to little avail.

I continue to hope and pray for a miraculous spirit of collaboration to exorcise the demons of obduracy and get Congress on a cooperative path before running into March 1’s broad-axed budget butchering, but time is growing short.

With the aroma from Capitol Hill smelling more and more like a barnyard, perhaps related metaphors are not out of place: when mulish and pig-headed people play chicken, they all end up with egg on their faces, and the country’s future is put out to pasture.

Something to think about when the next elections come around …

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