Despite the president’s daily glowing reassurances, Congress’ insistence that both chambers are multitasking day and night to deliver us from the depths of despair to a utopian existence and the unabashed cheerleading from The New York Times, St Louis Post-Dispatch, Kansas City Star and the mainstream visual media, why am I so hard to convince? After all, the economy has been stimulated with hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, green jobs are well on the way to replacing the fossil fuel pollution of our planet and universal health care is just around the corner — plus, 95 percent of Americans will see their taxes cut.
We are all familiar with the adage that there are two things you will never wish to watch: the making of sausage and the making of legislation. The origin of this idea has been attributed to German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, and it has never been more appropriate than in today’s discombobulated times.
In pushing President Barack Obama’s vision for America, Congress has passed a $787 billion stimulus bill, the House of Representatives has passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act and has in the works a universal health care bill with a passage deadline before the August recess. These bills are all long, but one common factor — only a handful of our elected representatives have read any of them. In fact, the two voted upon — the stimulus package and the Clean Air Act — were rushed through with neither Congress nor the public afforded an opportunity to peruse the legislation.
I make no claim to be among the sharpest knives in the drawer where designing, passing and executing our laws are concerned. Nevertheless, as a voting, taxpaying citizen, I reserve the right to be skeptical when actions are obviously not working as advertised, promised transparency has been painted over, the rules changed in midstream and serious and complicated legislation is being stampeded to meet an unrealistic deadline with none of the checks and balances in place.
Thus far, we have a stimulus that has yet to stimulate much of anything in the way of employment or rapid recovery. Instead of creating hundreds of thousands of “shovel ready” jobs that would keep unemployment capped at 8 percent as touted, the preponderance of pork-laden, long-term pet projects for individual members of Congress has stalled any real, immediate progress. Long on promise but short on reality, with but 6 percent of the $787 billion obligated in its first three months and unemployment approaching 10 percent, stimulating it is not.
The Clean Air and Security Act is similarly troubling, as the figures projected by the House of Representatives do not add up. The notion of tying much of our future economy to fear of a climate change holocaust by capping and taxing our primary and most abundant energy sources into oblivion is more than a bit unwise. Levying taxes on fossil fuel production to promote alternate, extremely costly and, as yet, unproven “green” wind and solar energy sources threaten the goose that laid the golden egg. In spite of the claims to the contrary, this will raise the cost of doing business and that increase will be passed on to you and me.
That holes and inconsistencies are beginning to multiply in the administration’s health care overhaul should not surprise anyone. Aside from the obvious “trying to do too much too quickly," a hallmark of this fledgling administration, the campaign promises of tax cuts for 95 percent of the population have proven hollow. The initial estimated cost of universal health care was more than $1 trillion, and some think it would cover but a third of those estimated to lack health insurance.
The desire to draft and execute a health care bill has reached Admiral David Farragut proportions of “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” The frantic search to cut costs while also raising revenue has rolled out at least two hoary but ever futile ploys by the administration and the committees — finding billions in cost, waste and abuse, and soaking the wealthy with surtaxes on those earning $350,000 to $1 million annually. To the Democrats' chagrin, they are beginning to feel heat from their affluent members and constituents as well.
Regardless of political persuasion, this legislation affects each and everyone of us and if it is not done right, we will have a long time to suffer economically and health care wise while seeking someone to blame. It should be obvious to even the most politically apathetic that there is little transparency, almost no consideration for the consequences and an absence of cooperation in a legislative process careening out of control. Anything worth doing is worth doing right the first time.
I am reminded of an old country philosopher of my acquaintance who said of goals so fervently desired that its proponents were willing to cut corners as a means to an end: “When you want something really bad — that is exactly what you are going to get — something really bad.” Slow it down, smell the coffee and for Pete's sake, read the bills.
J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.