Of Thousand Page Bills

The Porkulus was 1,073 pages, Crap and Tax was 1,201 pages but does that include the 300 page, 3:00 AM amendments? I’m not sure but what are a few hundred pages between friends? Now Obamacare weighs in at 1,017 pages. Our elected representatives assure us that bills such as this are necessary to ensure the laws resulting from these monstrosities are enforced as planned. Somehow, the recent disaster of “Cash for Clunkers” doesn’t reassure me.

Of course, these were all absolutely vital bills, not just your run of the mill legislation. The Porkulus was supposed to save us from utter catastrophe and the collapse of the American, if not the world’s economy. Crap and Tax is going to save the world, from that dreaded pollutant and natural bi-product of life, carbon dioxide. And of course, Obamacare is going to provide medical treatment for the 45 million uninsured who can’t get it, unless of course they go to any emergency room anywhere in the United States.

1,000 page bills wasn’t always the norm, a man who knew a thing or two about government and legislation once said…

“It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.” James Madison

A comparison of legislation Madison was closely involved in and what passes for legislation today doesn’t shine a favorable light on our current crop of elected leaders.

“May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others.” Thomas Jefferson, June 24, 1826

Thomas Jefferson wrote this in a letter to Roger C. Weightman, then Mayor of Washington DC. Jefferson’s health forced him to decline Weightman’s invitation to share in the 4th of July celebration honoring the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. While America celebrated that 50th Independence Day, Thomas Jefferson passed away at the age of 83.

Jefferson, serving as the Minister to France from 1785-1789, missed the Philadelphia Convention and the creation of the Constitution for the United States. His friend, James Madison is considered the primary author, the “Father of the Constitution”, and kept Jefferson abreast of the proceedings. Madison described the Constitution in this fashion:

“The happy Union of these States is a wonder; their Constitution a miracle; their example the hope of Liberty throughout the world”

Jefferson witnessed the effects of our “inalienable rights” during the French Revolution, even providing a draft “Charter of Rights” to his friend the Marquis de Lafayette, one of the leaders of the National Constituent Assembly.

There is no denying the effect these two documents have had on America and the world, but by the standard of our current elected leaders these documents are all but useless.

The Declaration of Independence is one page, roughly 1,300 words. The Constitution is four pages, albeit each is 28 ¾ inches by 23 5/8 inches. Counting all 27 amendments it is comprised of 7,591 words. The horror! Surely something so short and unspecific must be riddled with unintended consequences, where is Madison’s “Cash for Clunkers” style failure?

I’ve read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution for the United States, several times. The first time was while I was in High School; even then I found it easily understood. It was obviously written to be clear and concise and didn’t require “legalese”. I recently presented my daughter with a pocket copy for her High School graduation, she found it completely understandable. Though it was mentioned in her American History class, it wasn’t studied or discussed beyond the general facts and dates. Thanks to the August recess I had time to read HR 3200, all 1,017 pages. The same clear and concise style isn’t there. The primary language is legalese but even then, its text and the underlying meaning is murky, as if it’s hiding something. It establishes bureaucracies but doesn’t explain their function; it references other documents and laws but does not explain how that affects the bill itself.

Here are the opening statements…

Constitution: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

HR 3200: To provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes.

HR 3200 comes out a little lackluster, but it is only a bill intent on controlling a major portion of the American Economy, not intended to control the workings of the government of an entire nation. Of course, the first term of congress, 1789-1791, our legislators spent an entire $4.3 million dollars, with HR 3200 coming in at $1 Trillion plus, maybe we could expect a little more.

Contrast the creation of Congress with the creation of the Center for Comparative Effectiveness Research (pg 502).

The Constitution clearly delineates what the House and Senate can and cannot do. The Center for Effective Comparative Effectiveness is established to “establish and periodically update, not less frequently than triennially, national priorities for performance improvement.” What is done with these recommendations is not clearly mentioned but it involves a lot of concern with “high cost chronic diseases”, and “end of life care”. It goes on to define quality measures as those that “assess outcomes and functional status of patients, to assess the continuity and coordination of care and care transitions for patients across providers and health care settings, including end of life care, and to assess the safety, effectiveness, and timeliness of care.” That’s a lot of what it can and will do, but where are the limitations? With similar organizations, such as NICE in the UK, already well known for rationing available healthcare, where is the statement “the Center for Effective Comparative Effectiveness will not limit available treatment for patients, regardless of age or current health condition, including chronic diseases and end of life care? The Constitution would have included such a line, and many more. There are no limitations listed, no chains upon this particular government entity.

These observations hold true throughout HR 3200, it creates but does not limit. The bill itself does not address Americans concerns; we are left to trust our elected officials’ blithe answers to our questions about those concerns. They tell us we are being misinformed, there are no “death panels” they tell us we can keep our own insurance and our own doctors, the bill doesn’t say abortions will be paid for by our tax dollars, but they refuse to write these things into the bill. We are instead told we must trust them; they are trying to take care of us! I have no trust for government OR our elected leaders. The Constitution was written to eliminate the need for trust, as Jefferson described:

“In questions of power…let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”

Our government and our elected leaders are wriggling free of the chains that bind them, hiding their efforts behind thousand page bills. It’s time to check the locks, tighten the cuffs till they pinch and chafe, they’ve done enough mischief already.

Contributor to The Minority Report