August 16, 2009

RADLEY BALKO: Why “Reading The Bill” Won’t Matter.

USA Today notes that even forcing legislators to read the health care legislation in the House probably wouldn’t do much good. The bill is so bogged down with bureaucrat-eze, few of them are likely to understand it. . . . This is another argument in favor of posting bills in their final form online for a considerable period of time before voting on them, or before they’re signed into law. Crowdsourcing by people who have experience wading through the parentheses and em-dashes might at least help decipher some of the mess to get a clearer picture of what it all means. As it stands, we’re left with the few politicians who helped craft the bill saying, “Just trust us.”

That rarely works out well.

Well, it works out just fine for some people, which is why they do it that way. But this raises another issue. My thought has been that — in order to avoid the perception of an Obama defeat — Congress would eventually pass some sort of watered-down bill, proclaim health care “reformed,” and declare victory. But the trust-level is so low now — with a majority of voters saying that it would be better if nothing passed at all — that I’m not sure that approach is viable. Once you don’t trust reports of what’s in the bill, you’re not likely to trust reports that “we’ve fixed all the problems.” Indeed, I think opposition to health care is largely about distrust of the entire political class, which is something you can’t fix with a few amendments. So they may try, but they may find it harder to pass anything than they think.

UPDATE: Reader Matt Barker emails:

You hit the nail on the head when you posted that citizens don’t trust their lawmakers or the legislative process that has produced “health reform.” Our leaders’ reluctance to place themselves under the laws and programs they create for the rest of us is a big part of this mistrust.

Yes. And trust, once lost, is hard to regain. Just ask the Republicans . . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader David Good writes: “His argument is not an argument against making them read the bill, it is an argument for slowing the process down. He even says so. Doesn’t mean we can’t do both.” True enough!

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