Legislation Without Representation: Are We Being Counted Out?
That’s how long President Obama’s economic stimulus plan ended up being when it was passed in February. This $787 billion document increased the federal government’s power more substantially than any in recent memory. A spending plan of this magnitude must have had a lot of time go into it to make sure it was constitutionally sound and that it would work, right? I mean, 1,073 pages is a lot of material. Anything could be in there.
Unfortunately, not even our lawmakers know everything that’s inside of it.
The stimulus bill was pushed through Congress in a matter of days, as it was said we couldn’t afford to wait any longer. President Obama said that his package would keep unemployment from rising above 8%, and, as Fred Barnes of the Wall Street Journal pointed out:
“Once the stimulus passed, Democrats said the impact would be practically instant. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) predicted ‘an immediate jolt.’ Economic adviser Larry Summers said, ‘You’ll see the effects almost immediately.’ White House Budget Director Peter Orszag said it would ‘take only weeks or months’ to be felt.”
Obviously, none of these claims have turned out to be true. Unemployment has moved on past 9% and is well on its way to 10%. As far as feeling the effects of the stimulus, President Obama now says it was never supposed to work quickly. “(The measure) was not designed to work in four months—it was designed to work over two years,” he said, responding to critics of the plan. But the public is feeling less and less reassured. According to a recent phone survey by Rasmussen Reports, 36% of those polled say the plan has had no impact, while 31% say the stimulus actually hurt the economy. 45% of respondents think that the rest of the new government spending authorized by the stimulus should be cancelled completely.
How many members of Congress read the document in its entirety? The answer, of course, is probably zero. After all, how many people could possibly sift through ten pounds of pork in two days? Perhaps if our Congressmen were given the time, they could have made an effort to reduce the bill that was, according to House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, “full of pork-barrel spending, government waste and massive borrowing” that is now evident upon further review. This way, the bill would be written by elected officials, not by their staff and special interest lobbyists. If you would like to read the stimulus in entirety for yourself (something that I doubt any Congressman could claim they did), check out www.readthestimulus.org.
My question to you, the reader, is this: Are we as Americans being represented fairly when even our own Congressmen don’t know exactly what they’re voting on? And, even more disturbing, if they don’t know what’s in the bill, who’s writing it?
Here’s an idea for a useful bill, as proposed by the organization Downsize DC: Pass a law stating that each bill and amendment must be read in its entirety before a quorum in the House and the Senate. Every member of Congress must swear that they have read, or heard read, the complete bill. Not only will our Congressmen know what they are voting on, but it will also slow down the pace of government growth, will make bills become less complex, and no more clauses will be inserted into bills at the last second.
The full text of this bill can be found at www.downsizedc.org under “Read the Bills Act.” I encourage everyone who believes in our Constitution to read it and pass it along to your Senators and House members. Let it be known that we are in favor of no legislation without representation.
Colin Slaughter is an intern for the Idaho Freedom Foundation and a student at the College of Idaho in Caldwell.