Tea Party favorite and pizza mogul Herman Cain has a revolutionary idea for when he becomes president. If elected, he promises to make sure all bills that are passed are short.
Like, three pages or less.
Via Think Progress:
CAIN: Engage the people. Don’t try to pass a 2,700 page bill — and even they didn’t read it! You and I didn’t have time to read it. We’re too busy trying to live — send our kids to school. That’s why I am only going to allow small bills — three pages. You’ll have time to read that one over the dinner table.
But when it comes to bills that are actually three pages or less, or could be written in three pages or less, odds are you won’t even find them in Congress. There’s a reason — real legislation needs actual language. Law is, in fact, complex. As Mother Jones reports:
[M]any bills passed by Congress are indeed very long. Sometimes, this is because they’re very complex pieces of legislation with lots of moving parts that need to be enacted as a package in order to work. Sometimes this is because they’re the congressional equivalent of listicles, long appropriations bills that basically just incorporate an endless number of approved projects and programs. (Cain might disagree with that practice, but often those listicles fund things he likes—it’s one of the ways we fund the military.)
Indeed, as Marie Diamond notes, even landmark conservative achievements that Cain undoubtedly supports, like the Bush tax cuts and the USA PATRIOT Act, would have been subjected to a big fat veto from the Godfather under his three-page limit. The same goes for Paul Ryan’s budget—or any budget bill, for that matter. Cain is essentially pledging that, if elected president, he will not sign any bills of consequence. Although considering some of his other ideas, that might be the best Americans can hope for.
Other documents that were more than three pages? Well, the U.S. Constitution. But we know he’s not so familiar with that.
As Steve Benen writes at the Washington Monthly, the Cain “cliff notes” proposal is just another plank of the dumbing down of the presidency that started back when we decided that we’re rather elect people we “want to have a beer with” than people that we think might have the intelligence and curiosity we used to want in our legislators.
I guess that’s what irks me most about this incessant preoccupation with bill length — it reeks of anti-intellectualism. The Republicans who complain the loudest aren’t even trying to hide their disdain for depth and detail. “Just dumb it down for us,” they seem to be saying. “We can’t be bothered to, you know, read and stuff.”
But sometimes, powerful people working on important measures need to care enough about substance to write detailed proposals. Car makers can’t put together a blueprint for a new model in three pages or less. Scientific researchers can’t publish a study on life-saving medication in three-pages or less. It doesn’t mean the cars and/or medicine lack value, just because the typical American couldn’t read the descriptions at the dinner table.
The dumbing down of Washington. I can think of nothing I want more from my politicians than a short attention span and low reading comprehension.
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