Michigan Democratic Rep. John Dingell has been in House for 57 years, or a quarter of the time there has been a United States Congress, so he's the foremost expert when it comes to the public's attitude toward lawmakers. His verdict: It's never been worse.

Complaining that members spend their time "carping and criticizing," he said that the public's respect for Congress has fallen to a new low. "We are know for gridlock, inaction and for ineffectiveness," he said at a House hearing Wednesday.

"The public has an attitude toward the Congress that is somewhere below bill collectors and just slightly above child molesters," he added to nervous laughs.