The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

The Single Subject Rule

This week, I begin the lengthy process of completing my federal tax return. I listen to a cryto-communist like Bernie Sanders or a political opportunist like Hillary Clinton suggest that taxes must be raised so that income redistribution can be achieved to cure "income inequality." After all, it's really, really easy to take ever larger percentages from those of us who work hard, very hard, to earn a decent living and give it to those who—let's put this delicately—sometimes work less hard to earn their own way. But I digress.

As I collected my income and tax receipts, my mood darkened when I learned the United States passed over a new debt redline—$19 trillion in debt. Spending is outstripping even the Democrat's ability to add ruinous taxes to cover their profligacy.

For innumerate progressives, $19 trillion is an abstraction that is either ignored, dismissed, or embraced with the shrill statement that if only the "rich" paid their "fair share" everything would be okay. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are dueling to see who can propose even more big government programs (e.g., universal healthcare, "free" college, debt forgiveness) that will increase the national debt even more rapidly. These will be paid for, of course, by taxing only "the rich"—a lie that progressives are all too willing to believe.

But the GOP is not innocent in all of this. Although the party at least acknowledges that debt is a serious problem and opposes the tax increases that the Dems regularly propose, it has done little to reduce big government spending.

As I have stated many times, there are no easy answers to all of this. Taking a big picture view, the size and scope of the federal government should be reduced. But there are very powerful, wide ranging interests—e.g., public sector unions, corporate lobbyists, the military, the entitlement community, the Democrats, 47 percent of the population that "takes" from [rather than pays income taxes to] the federal government, thousand of consulting and law firms, and federal contractors—that suck of at the teat of big government. All will fight to be sure spending reform doesn't happen.

What to do?

Glen Reynolds writes:
We’ve seen it over and over: Congress passes huge bills, like Obamacare or the recent omnibus spending bill, that contain hundreds of provisions, and occupy thousands of pages — or tens of thousands if you include the ensuing pages of regulations. These bills are so long that literally no one has read the whole thing. They’re not so much bills, really, as Christmas trees on which lobbyists and legislators hang their goodies.

A bill that’s so long that nobody can read it is, naturally, pretty likely to escape scrutiny. With thousands of pages and hundreds or thousands of provisions in the bill, what’s the chance that any particular provision will be noticed or criticized?

And even if a few provisions are criticized, when they’re tied to a bill that rewards literally hundreds of constituencies, there’s not much chance they’ll be shot down. Legislators, and special interests, have a vested interest in sticking together and being sure that the whole bill passes. Individually, most of these lousy provisions wouldn’t pass, but when banded together for mutual protection they can.
That's the game, and the power elite in DC play it very well. That's why politicians are rewarded handsomely by big lobbying firms and other government contractors after they leave office.

Reynolds discusses one politician with a suggestion:
Enter Congresswoman Mia Love, a Republican from Utah. She wants to introduce a “single subject rule” to federal legislation. Says Love, as quoted by the Deseret News: "Members of both parties have made a habit of passing complex, thousand-page bills without hearings, amendments or debate. ... That process and the collusion that goes with it are why we are $18 trillion in debt and why the American people have lost trust in elected officials."

Her bill, H.R. 4335, would do the following according to Love's congressional website:
  • Require that each bill enacted by Congress be limited to only one subject;
  • End the practice of attaching controversial legislation to unrelated, must-pass bills;
  • Require the subject of a bill to be clearly state in its title;
  • Make void in appropriations bills, general legislation that does not pertain to the underlying (appropriations) bill;
  • Make the legislative process more transparent to the public
Importantly, the bill also provides for judicial review, allowing a court to strike legislation that doesn’t comply. And, in keeping with Love’s philosophy, the bill is just over three pages long.
Of course, none of this will happen. Like all of the popular "fair tax" proposals offered over the years (i.e., a one page tax return), any attempt at controlling spending like the “single subject rule” makes far too much sense to be enacted into law. After all, it takes power away from Washington politicians, and above all else, that's something that will never, ever happen.

Okay, back to my tax return. After all, somebody's got to pay the interest on the $19 trillion dollar debt.