The Herd Mentality Method Of Legislating

So, a stimulus bill that came in at nearly 800 pages long got passed by Congress a mere day after being agreed to in conference–promises that people would have longer to examine the package notwithstanding. Never mind that lobbyists got this bill before Representatives and Senators did. Never mind that no one in his/her right mind could possibly expect any Representatives and/or Senators to read legislation of that size and scope and comprehend all that the legislation entailed within the mere space of a single evening. And never mind that Congress was playing with nearly $800 billion of our money in the process. In any other situation, this approach to lawmaking would have been considered lunatic and appalling. In the United States, however, it is considered de rigueur these days.

It should not be, of course. As Veronique de Rugy points out here and here, the stimulus plan is deeply flawed and will bring about utterly deleterious policy consequences. Phil Levy emphasizes that the plan was crafted in the dead of night with a determined effort to avoid any and all public exposure concerning the details of the plan. Republicans were excluded from the crafting of the plan–something that Andrew Sullivan might want to remember the next time he accuses Congressional Republicans of denying his messiah a third time–and the odious and absurd “Buy American” provision was kept in, thus inviting trade retaliation from other countries and serving to retard our own efforts to get out of our current economic doldrums. Even as the drafters and enacters of the stimulus legislation denounced the “greed” that supposedly got us in this mess, they have worked to bring about a culture of–you guessed it–greed.

I’ll give David Boaz the last word:

“Profound economic emergency,” the president says. Failure to pass his spending plan could “turn a crisis into a catastrophe”. Any delay will mean “paralysis” and “disaster”. It’s all out of the “shock doctrine” playbook: scare people to death and then demand that your agenda be enacted without delay.

Naomi Klein made waves two years ago with her book The Shock Doctrine, in which she claimed that conservative governments use crises to ram through free-market policies. As she put it in an interview: “The Shock Doctrine is a political strategy that the Republican right has been perfecting over the past 35 years to use for various different kinds of shocks. They could be wars, natural disasters, economic crises, anything that sends a society into a state of shock to push through what economists call ‘economic shock therapy’ – rapid-fire, pro-corporate policies that they couldn’t get through if people weren’t in a state of fear and panic.”

And that’s just what we’re seeing today – only in reverse.

Happy Stimulus.