In February, Congress broke yet another record – and not the good kind either. According to Gallup, the approval rating for both houses that month fell to a historic low of 10%.
This finding, of course, shocked no one. Partisan gridlock and an inability to work together have made congress a dead-letter institution for almost four years. But aside from one side crushing the other in a landslide election (an unlikely scenario in 2012’s close cycle), there are few solutions for breaking the legislative stalemate.
MIT grad and congressional candidate Thomas Massie thinks he has the best one: elect more engineers.
As the Tea Party hero explained in an interview with xconomy:
“Lawyers are taught to take a position, whether it’s right or wrong ideologically, and defend it—to go collect facts to support it. Whereas engineers are taught the inverse of that, they’re taught to collect facts and then come up with an answer based on the facts. That’s the kind of thought process we need more of in government.”
A quick look at the makeup of the 111th Congress supports Massie’s hypothesis. Out of 535 representatives, 462 are either lawyers or career politicians.
There are 6 engineers.
For comparison, eight of the top nine political leaders in China have some sort of scientific background – President Hu Jintao is a hydraulic engineer by trade.
From my own personal experience with the subject, I can confirm that engineers do one thing lawyers don’t: work together. The main goal of engineering is to solve a problem, and that requires teamwork and inclusiveness. In law, winning a case is the primary goal, and digging your heels in is a must. With so many lawyers in Washington, it’s no surprise that neither side is willing to budge.
The Washington Post recently reported that partisanship in the US has reached a 25-year high. Congress hasn’t passed a budget in years, and the national debt is growing unchecked. The Bush tax cuts are about to expire, and unemployment just rose to 8.2%.
Maybe we ought to give this engineering thing a try.