It would help if people commenting about Congress took the tiem to educate themselves enough to actually know what they are talking about.
1. Congress is a plural not a singular institution. There are 435 House members and 100 Senators. Applying generalities about attitudes, lefes experience etc to a highly diverse group of individuals tends to quickly become meaningless.
2. Members of Congress are paid about the same as an SES or SL career fed and far less than the top salaries at someplace like FDIC, NIH or the VA hospital system. Staff salaries go down rapidly from there. The average Congressional staffer makes less than a typical GS-11.
3. Members of Congress have paid into SS since 1986 and there are no free tuition schools for their children. They are under basicly the same retirement program as the rest of the federal government.
4. The total compensation package for members of Congress, including leadership, is about comprable to what a mid grade executive would get at a large corporation and far less than what a senior executive would get.
5. Most of them do not actually stay more than about 10 years. Look at the seniority tables for the current Congress and you will see that well over 1/2 have been elected since 2000.
The bipartisan cooperation that many people think was so wonderful about past elected officials primarily represented continued agreement to avoid actually dealing with problems by kicking the can down the road to the next generation. The current gridlock and fierce brinksmanship come from the fact we have run out of road and this generation must actually come up with realistic solutions (often very painful ones) rather pass the problems on. Members of Congress get elected based on the usually unrealistic expectations of voters in complete denial about the real world. They come to Washington expecting to change the world to fit what their constituents want and farily quickly realize that simply is not possible in this country or any other.
Constituents, including public employees, expect their elected officials to wave some magic wand and make everything work the way they beleive it should. Sorry, life doesn’t work that way. Start with the fact that disagreementw within the public about how the world should work are deep, feirce and subject to sudden rapid changes. Add the fact that each of the 435 House members and 100 Senators represent constituents with often very conflicting views and legislating becomes off the charts difficult.
I would challange any public employee who thinks Congress has an easy job and is ineffective because they are lazy or out of touch to take 2-3 weeks leave and go work in the DC office of a Congressman or Senator. Contact the Chief of Staff of your local rep to set it up. An even better experience would be to see if you can get detailed to the hill for 3-6 months as part of a development program. You may not change your opinion of the institutuion and its members but at least you will no longer be speaking from ignorence.