We are living in an era of government dedicated to the proposition that, the larger a bill of enacting laws that is put forth, the greater the chance that the bill will deal with the complicated contingencies of modern life. These megaliths are often given clear and impactful titles – The Patriot Act, The American Recovery and ReInvestment Act, the Health Care and Education Affordability and Reconciliation Act, and the Financial Regulatory Reform Act to name a few of our recent beauties. The descriptive character of these titles belie the incredible vagaries and unknowable effects of thousands and thousands of pages of byzantine edicts and regulations. The one thread that runs through all these monuments to modern legislation is that almost no one who has voted for them has spent any time reading any of them.
Interestingly our leaders are proud of this fact:
Frank Lautenberg, Senator New Jersey – Feb. 13 2009 – ” No one will have time to read the final version of the Stimulus Act before it comes up for a vote in the Senate.”
Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House -March 9, 2010 “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it”
Bill Thomas, Rep. California – June 10, 2010 – Asks Warren Buffet at Financial Review Meeting if he thought the Congress had gotten most of the Financial Regulatory Reform Act “mostly right”. Buffet confessed he had not read the 1500 page bill, and Thomas assured him that was okay, because” no one has read the text of the financial regulatory reform bill, including some of the co-sponsors”.
What has happened to the consideration that congress used to put into laws, the committee review, the careful syntax, the brevity for impact. Well….its just gone. President Obama ran on the principle of assuring the public that each act of legislation would see at least five days on the Internet prior to any vote , to provide the “light of Day” to each action. That promise didn’t last inauguration, and hasn’t seen the light of day since. The process of passage now is comprised of allowing lobbyists and policy wonks their best shot at crafting policy statements as laws, and then allow subsequent acts to “fix” the mistakes. The American public? Simply too naive and reactionary to be allowed to know what’s in the bill ahead of time, as fore-knowledge would simply kill any passage momentum. At a time in our history when technology offers the opportunity to each citizen if so inclined to have access to information that will intensely affect his or her life, the access is denied. More frighteningly, when the information is available upon passage, the reader is buried under a blizzard of ridiculous hedges, sidebars, and subsets that make the impact simply unknowable.
The most important piece of legislation passed by an American Congress is the Bill Of Rights, passed by the congress in 1789, and ratified by the states in 1791.
The Rights of Man, so complex, so important, so revolutionary, so effective………………fits on one page.