Monday, January 3, 2011

Little Matters

If you are like me, and you see an ad for a pharmaceutical on TV, you are struck by the fast-talking blur of information at the end of the commercial about potential side effects. Good grief! No matter the affliction that pesters you, you may note that the potential side effects include everything thing from terminal diarrhea to elephantitus. The all inclusive list of maladies can cause any thoughtful person to pause before asking a physician to consider the new wonder drug. Similarly, ads for auto leases close with a fast talking list of conditions associated with your dream of driving a new car. If you fork over a trade in plus $3500.00 in cash, then your payments will be a mere $199.00 per month plus taxes and title fees for six years. The danger is in the details. Just like legislation.
By now the 2700 page Affordable Care Act (aka: Obamacare), has demonstrated that details do matter. As the Christmas Holiday approached, Congresspersons who were eager to return to their families and districts approved the massive boondoggle without knowing what the bill contained. In fact, as you recall, Speaker Pelosi stated that “we have to pass it to see what’s in it.” That attitude does not instill confidence in the legislative process, or give us the sense that the legislators know the details…understand the fine print. They don’t, and they admit it. It is left to the bureaucrats and the affected citizens to ferret out the nuances and the clinkers in many legislative acts. Just like any ordinary commercial transaction, one must always be aware of the fine print…..or in some legislative instances, the print to be added later.
Some folks have made a big deal out of the fact that career politicians do not live under the same laws as the rest of us. Rightly so. The demand that they observe their own proscriptions and regulations could be extended much further than personal healthcare and office-place behaviors. What about all the rules and regulations that our exalted leaders have forced upon our business community in the name of “consumer protection?” Shouldn’t those same disclosures and restrictions be mandatory when laws are passed or rules are promulgated that affect so many of us outside the marble halls of Washington? Wouldn’t it be sensible for every law to have a long-winded disclaimer that identifies all the potential side effects?
Some of the incoming members of the House of Representatives have stated that they want to require a particular constitutional citation for every piece of proposed legislation. That is good. Now add to it the disclaimer about whom the legislation helps and whom it hurts…and to what degree. After all, our brave new world seems to revolve around the metro sexual dream of getting “in touch with one’s feelings” and the cathartic release of full disclosure. In addition, the revelation of who wins and who loses would clearly expose any legislation that willfully violates the “general welfare” clause.
Obviously I’m dreaming. Career politicians employ sleight of hand and doubletalk in their toolboxes. A straightforward identification of winners and losers is alien to their nature. Besides, politicians lie, and we allow it. We create more severe penalties for truth telling than we do for blatant, bald faced, fork-tongued, double-dealing prevarication. Maybe Jack Nicholson was right in “An Officer and a Gentleman.” “You can’t handle the truth.” Maybe we can’t handle the truth, but what the hell, let’s give it a shot.


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