In praise of a do-nothing Congress
By Selwyn Duke
Here's a question: how can we expect to have small government if we condemn Congress for not growing it?
It's always a disturbing experience when you're accosted with a picture of Harry Reid, as I was upon logging on to Drudge earlier this month. But at least his image bore a fitting caption: "MOST FUTILE EVER." I then clicked the link and found myself at The Washington Times – normally a quite sane organ of the media – and learned the meaning of the caption: the Times was lamenting a do-nothing Congress and presented Reid as its poster boy. Writes the paper, "It's official: Congress ended its least-productive year in modern history after passing 80 bills – fewer than during any other session since year-end records began being kept in 1947."
Writes Duke, "It's official: conservatives are completely confused about what begets big government."
The paper then expanded on its theme, pointing out that Congress set a record for "legislative futility" according to something called the "futility index."
I'll tell you what's futile: complaining about a loss of freedom while chastising legislators for not spawning enough bills.
Perhaps I'm missing something, but my understanding is that a "bill" that's signed by the president becomes a law. I also have this goofy notion that, except for certain housekeeping measures and repeals of old legislation, a law is by definition a removal of a freedom, as it states that there's something you must or must not do. Ergo, enslaved as I am by the old math, my figuring informs that the more laws we have, the less free we are. It then seems to follow – at least using my white male linear logic – that since we continually enact more laws but hardly ever rescind any, every year the progressives make us progressively less free.
Thus, when I see "do-nothing" and "Congress" in close proximity, it occurs to me that "do" has many definitions. And when government doeth, I think of the definition in the following Lord of the Flies dialogue: "The Chief and Roger.... They hate you, Ralph. They're going to do you."
So if you complain about a do-nothing Congress, I ask, what is it exactly that you want them to "do," whom do you think they'll "do" it to, and what do you think will be done to you? Our current Congress passed 80 bills. How many more do you want and how many more until we're done for?
The good news is that many of 2011's bills were simply housekeeping measures – such as spending reauthorization acts or extensions of already existing laws – so we probably didn't lose as many freedoms this time around as the bod...er...bill count would indicate. Really, though, what does it say about third-millennium America when Uncle Sam disgorges 80 pieces of legislation and we, like good little masochists, bend over and say, "Thank you, sir! May I have another?"?
The reality is that we should want a do-nothing Congress. In fact, we should want a do-nothing president, do-nothing bureaucrats and hope that our military, police, firefighters and judges have to do little. And let's just think about where we'd be today if we actually had a do-nothing government for the last many years.
First and foremost, we wouldn't have ObamaCare. We wouldn't have had the bailouts that transferred trillions of dollars from the middle class to rich fat cats and Barack Obama cronies. Billions wouldn't have been wasted on Solyndra and numerous other green-energy scam companies. We wouldn't have McCain-Feingold, Dodd-Frank or the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. We wouldn't have the October 2009 federal hate-crimes bill, which, like all such legislation, is an effort at thought control. We wouldn't have No Child Left Behind. We'd be free of the new taxes and plethora of regulations that Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus said would make it impossible for him to start his company today. There wouldn't be the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gives unelected bureaucrats at the FDA the power to regulate the tobacco industry. There wouldn't be the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010, which gives Big Brother unprecedented control over the people's ability to grow food. And we wouldn't have the National Defense Authorization Act, which empowers the government to detain American citizens indefinitely without trial. Are we "done" yet?
Note that the above examples are just a (very) short list, are virtually all unconstitutional, and all cost us dearly in terms of money, rights or both. And how many freedoms did we lose, from No Child Left Behind to Obama's kicking of the Constitution's behind? I'm not sure, but I'm guessing it'd probably take Deep Blue or Rain Man to crunch those numbers.
So should we really be lamenting a government that isn't "productive" when the word doesn't quite mean in government what it does elsewhere? When an auto company is more productive, you get more cars. When a footwear maker is more productive, you get more shoes. When yours truly is more productive, you get more sage and scintillating prose. And when the state is more productive?
You get fewer freedoms.
This is why congress' legislation count is just like a golf score: the lower, the better
But if the Times really thinks it's like a bowling score, don't blame Dirty Harry Reid for 2011's lack of liberty strikes. After all, I can assure you that he aspires to be a very "productive" man. And if he and his gang retain the Senate and presidency and regain control of the House, they'll "do" a lot. In fact, they may do ya' permanent.
Place the blame for the 112th Congress' relatively law-less state where it belongs: on the Tea Party types in power. They just don't do.