Monday, February 16, 2009

Thinking is one thing no one has ever been able to tax

Charles Kettering

No Way To Make Public Policy
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY Posted Friday, February 13, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Stimulus: Say this for the $787 billion behemoth that Congress voted on on Friday — never in our history has a more important vote been cast on legislation with so little scrutiny. Couldn't they at least read the thing before voting on it?

The 1,434-page bill is, in a word, massive. It's full of details that deserve to be given a close look before anyone votes. As the old saying goes, the devil's in the details — and if you can't look at the details, you might just end up with the devil.

The bill that President Obama called "the largest change in domestic policy since the 1930s" was jammed down Congress' throat, breaking almost all the promises of bipartisanship and transparency along the way.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid vowed to give members of Congress at least 48 hours to look at the historic legislation before them.

After all, the bill will spend the equivalent of nearly 9% of our GDP while adding $1.2 trillion to our national debt. Obama vows to "create or save" 3.5 million jobs at a cost of $263,000 per job.
Shouldn't it get even a little bit of scrutiny?

Apparently not. The bill went on line sometime early Friday morning, not too long before passing 246-183 with not a single Republican vote and seven Democrats voting against it.
So much for a "bipartisan" plan, another promise broken.

In the House at least, there wasn't even the pretense of bipartisanship. The Democrats drafted their bill with no input from the Republicans.

In the Senate, Democrats found three Republicans — Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of Maine (pop. 1.3 million), and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania — to give them bipartisan cover and to provide a 60-vote filibuster-proof majority.

Even more obscene was the undue haste with which Congress voted on this bill as it was still coming together late last week. As House GOP leader John Boehner noted on the floor, "not one (House) member has read this bill."

That was by design. Pelosi was keen to leave town on a weeklong recess, and she didn't want to have to wait for a little thing like debate over the largest spending bill ever passed.

Nor is it a partisan issue. As Missouri Democrat Emanuel Cleaver said, "Regardless of party, we all cast our votes with one hand and crossed our fingers with the other."

Is this any way to pass a so-called stimulus package?

Even worse, as U.S. News and World Report has noted, lobbyists — not members of Congress — got the first shot at suggesting changes to the measure.

The newsweekly's Paul Bedard said "one key Democratic staffer" e-mailed him the following: "K Street (Washington's lobbyists' row) has the bill, or chunks of it already, and the congressional offices don't."

This was Thursday night, on the eve of the vote. And remember, Congress had voted to put the bill online for at least 48 hours before it took action. Not until Friday morning, however, did it hit the Web. All a lie.

Why the haste? Surely one reason is the bill is stuffed with pork and short of real stimulus. Its authors don't want the details out. They shouldn't be surprised, then, when voters bridle at what they've been saddled with.

Another reason seems to be that lawmakers had pressing business overseas during this week's recess, and really didn't want to stick around Washington.

In Pelosi's case, she and several other Democrats were due to leave Friday evening for an eight-day tour of Europe, including Rome. We wouldn't want to get in the way of her travel plans, would we?

In this month of celebrating the bicentennial of President Lincoln's birth, we can't help recalling his prayerful hope at Gettysburg — that "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

This bill pretty much inverts Lincoln's ringing words. In this sorry episode at least, it was "government of the lobbyists, by the lobbyists, for the lobbyists." In other words, real disgrace.

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Harlan Ellison