How much has the image of Congress been tarnished with actions of Representative Anthony Wiener from New York? Have we as voters become desensitized to scandals on Capitol Hill such as Rep. Charles Rangel (New York), Senator Larry Craig (Idaho) and former Senator John Edwards (North Carolina)?

Do we care?

Recent polls show that Americans’ assessment of Congress has hit a new all-time low. Gallup polling recently found that only 13 percent of those surveyed approve of the way Congress is handling its job, which is the worst it has measured in more than 30 years since tracking the job performance of Congress.

A new Rasmussen Report finds that just 9 percent of likely voters think Congress is doing a good or excellent job and half rate congressional performance as poor. Over the past year only 16 percent of voters say that Congress has passed legislation that will significantly improve life in America, while 60 percent disagree and 24 percent are not sure. 

These poor marks only remain slightly less abysmal than they were last year.

What about broken promises that keep piling up? For instance, the House and Senate in 2006 were controlled by the Democrats who promised the most ethical Congress in history and a new era of transparency. What we received was a 1,200-page health care bill prepared behind closed doors and passed in the middle of the night, which many of the representatives hadn’t even read or knew the contents contained therein. 

The Republicans didn’t fare much better. Many of the new GOP representatives elected in a big sweep during the 2010 elections promised tax reductions and reform with the help of the support of the Tea Party. But when it was their turn to forge a new budget for 2012, how many cuts did we see?    

No doubt, the Rep. Weiner events have hurt the image of Congress and have discouraged some from serving in public office. But broken promises continue to mount and frustration over gridlock sucks the wind out of our sympathetic sails.

As members of Congress grapple over reducing the historic-level federal budget deficit, I would recommend a trip across the street to the Library of Congress. My hope is they will take a tour like I did recently with my family.    

What caught my eye during the tour was a mosaic of Minerva, the Roman goddess of learning and wisdom. Our tour guide discussed Roman virtues, traits or qualities deemed morally excellent and to which every citizen should aspire.  

  • Aequitas: “Equity.” Fair dealing in government and among the people.
  • Justica: “Justice.” As expressed by sensible laws and governance.
  • Honestas: “Respectability.” A respectable member of society.
  • Prudentia: “Prudence.” Foresight, wisdom and personal discretion.
  • Severitas: “Sternness.” Gravity, self-control.
  • Veritas: “Truthfulness.” Honesty in dealing with others. 

Whether in Congress or in the private sector, Americans have become disenchanted by their leaders. Leadership used to mean something positive in America. Our leaders need to remember the responsibilities that come with leading.