The U.S. Congress just passed President Obama's trillion-ish dollar "stimulus" package. The more the public heard about the bill, the less they seemed to like it, so the Democrats rammed that puppy through as quickly as possible with as little time as they could manage for the public to digest it. They only released the final text of the bill one day before the vote.
But the damned thing's over 1,000 pages. It's not just that there was not sufficient time to debate or consider the bill. As Representative Tom Price (R-Georgia) put it succinctly, "it is physically impossible for any member [of Congress] to have read this bill."
I find it difficult to believe that even a good liberal honestly thinks this is an acceptable way of doing business. Even if you think that deficit stimulus spending is a good idea for our economy — as if the years of Bush deficits don't disprove that idea — surely you can't think it a good idea to commit to a trillion dollars of spending before anyone has even read the bill.
Here's what I would consider to be a truly (i.e. not facetious or satirically) modest proposal to ever so gently insert some small and simple measure of sanity back into our legislative process; this seems important enough to merit a constitutional amendment. Some smart lawyer might improve upon my layman's language, but how about something real simple like:
It shall be the inviolable right of any member of the Senate or House of Representatives to have the full text of any bill read aloud on the floor of Congress before a final vote for passage.
Obviously this would play somewhat into the hands of right-wing types with something like this bill, but that's only because the process is so severely out of control. If you think the government should drop one septillion dollars into subsidizing electric cars/glorified golf carts, that's fine. I think we just did that, but who knows? No one has read the thing.
That doesn't even require Congress to let a particular representative do the reading, with the opportunity to r-e-a-d r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w-l-y. Nancy Pelosi could hire the most quick-dictioned auctioneer to slam through it at top speed. In the case of this "stimulus" bill though, she'd probably have to bring in a few of them to take shifts.
Most likely a monstrosity like this "stimulus" bill couldn't survive such an ordeal. By a couple of hours into the reading, C-Span viewers would be calling their people. By the time a physical reading could be accomplished across even several non-stop days, the lynch mobs would be showing up to tar and feather Reid and Pelosi and ride Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter out of town on a rail.
But that would apply to right wing legislation as well. We might have had a substantially different and certainly better-considered outcome if we had slowed down enough to have the proposed Patriot Act actually read publicly.
Now, if the country is under a physical attack, the Commander-in-Chief can have bombers in the air and boots on the ground right away without any waiting. But Congress surely doesn't have any business so urgent that they should be passing legislation without anyone amongst their own membership having at least a minimal opportunity to actually read it, or have it read to the American public who are going to be paying for it.
Is that too much to ask?