Why Can’t Johnny Read? (Is the Death of Federalism Also The Death of Good, Representative Government?)

It was a classic Kinsley-Gaffe. A politician thinks it; but man he’d better not say it. Fortunately for the truth, John Conyers (D-Mi) is less of a politician, and more of a Full-Metal Jack-Ass. He opined on whether reading really was a fundamental aspect of the duties assigned to legislators.

“I love these members, they get up and say, ‘Read the bill,’” said Conyers.

“What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?”

It’s an interesting question, pre-supposing literacy on the part of Congressman Conyers. What if the bills before our legislature have hit the point of ineluctability? What if a member of Congress is intelligent, as opposed to being John Conyers, and still can’t get through one of these Porknibus Spending Fiascos without a two-week sabbatical and the OJ Simpson Legal Defense Team? Can our national government still effectively function?

Suppose the answer to the first two questions is “No, KOTM, the scope and survey of these current legislative issues is beyond the cranial capacity of the current model of human being.” Well, then we have a serious national problem. A legislature that can’t even figure out what it passes can’t be expected to wield the Pimp-Hand of Justice against earmarks and corruption.

This is not a crippling problem. The Praetorian Guard auctioned the Roman Empire off to Didius Julianus in 193 AD. The Western Roman Empire limped along, like a Soviet Collective after all the Kulaks were shot, until 476AD. We could govern our nation on that level for quite awhile. I’m sure Chad will still be an intact nation fifteen years from now as well.

But let’s suppose we’d actually prefer to remain in the G20 for a while. Let’s say we’d prefer the rule of law to consist of well-understood practice as opposed to disingenuous graft and bribery? How do we fix these 1000+ page unreadable disaster bills? It’s really pretty simple. We make the Federal Government less omnipotent and make states and localities start shouldering the load.

First, we need to get away from ever attempting to regulate an outcome. We have the right to pursue happiness. Nothing but hard-work, training and perhaps a dash of luck will ever allow us to catch up. Our nation needs to grow up and deal with this fact.

The GOP can deliver this message. They have the stereotypical role of being the patriarchal figure that tells the pot-wasted adolescents that the weekend binge is over. Let’s use that unfair and inaccurate stereotype to the nation’s advantage and tell people we can’t buy them perfect health, a perfect economy and state-controlled weather.

These items shouldn’t be on the shopping list, because they simply are not available for sale. Can any government figure wave a magic wand and suspend the laws of reason and physics so that nobody ever suffers again? “No, you can’t!” This is reality, not an episode of Bob-The Builder.

Let’s tell states that they are now responsible for their own roads, their own hospitals and their own schools. With the exception of certain fealties, they are pretty much in charge of their own acculturation as well. We should live in America; not Generica.

This will require the Federal Government to take less from each state and impose fewer unfunded mandates. They will also have to let the states set their own standards and maybe, just maybe the Federal Government will have to suck it up and let Texas be Texas and Massachusetts figure out how to pay for state-wide compulsory health insurance out of its own hide. Then the people can decide how much government they desire to live under. The votes can be cast with moving vans and feet.

Finally, the Federal Government will have to let the unworkable fail. If Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security can’t pay their beneficiaries, they need to be scaled back or reorganized in such a way so that they can work. Too big to fail is oxymoronic to the mind of any talented student of economics. Things done on too large a scale eventually grow more likely fail as a function of that overextended size.

The worlds’ collective governments are seeking $5Tr in credit for this year alone. $3Tr is available. Someone’s bonds won’t sell; someone else’s currency will have to be inflated. Unless, of course, we can agree to tighten a few belts and do more with less government expenditure.

So there’s my plan to make John Conyers’ job more manageable. It’ll give him more time to press the flesh, kiss the babies and cash all the lobbying checks. The KOTM Plan would knock these bills down to a couple of hundred pages each. Then Congressman Conyers would no longer have an excuse to forego the reading, even if he had to move his lips to sound out each word.