Herman Cain’s Silly Idea And The Silly “Read The Bill” Meme

Herman Cain says he wouldn't sign any bill longer than three pages. It's a line that will get him applause, but it's totally impractical.

Speaking yesterday at a candidate forum in Iowa, Herman Cain said that, if he were elected President he would not sign any bill that is longer than three pages:

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. What does Herman Cain, President Cain talking about in this particular bill?

It’s one of those things that appeals to people at political rallies, and it quite obviously grows out of the whole meme that developed during the debate over the Affordable Care Act that Congress should be required to read every word of a bill before they vote on it. In an era where major legislation runs to thousands of pages, and we often find situations where something gets inserted into a bill that nobody in Congress will take credit (or blame) for being aware of beforehand it has a certain appeal to it, and it’s an idea that’s been around a long time. During one of his State of The Union addresses in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan famously picked up a copy of the budget bill currently being debated by Congress, and said this:

Like many things in politics, though, what sounds simple doesn’t always amount to much, as Former Reagan Administration official Bruce Bartlett explains:

The 1,990-page length of the health reform bill is once again bringing forth demands that members of Congress be required to read the legislation before voting on it. While a seemingly reasonable demand, it is, in fact, a waste of time.

The reason becomes obvious the moment one actually reads legislative language.

[…]

For these reasons, reading an actual bill is a completely useless exercise for the vast majority of members of Congress and staff. They rely heavily on committee reports that are supposed to accompany all bills coming up for a floor vote. These reports are written by committee staff and are required to faithfully reflect the bill’s intent. They may contain important details, clarifications, data, citations to hearings, and supporting materials, such as a section-by-section analysis, that allow the legislation to be intelligible to non-lawyers and other non-experts.

In addition, both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have organizations that review all bills coming up for a vote, summarize them and offer political perspectives. Here, for example, is the House Republican Conference report on the health bill. If one’s party holds the White House, a member may find the Statement of Administration Policy to be important in understanding a bill and how to vote on it. Here is the SAP on the health bill. The Congressional Budget Office’s analysis may also be important. Here is its report on the health bill.

(…)

The point is this discussion is to show that actually reading a bill is not going to tell the average congressman or senator anything useful about it. Making it some sort of requirement for enactment simply wastes time that would be better spent absorbing summaries and analyses that tell members what the legislation is supposed to do.

It’s not reading the bills that matters, it’s understand them and understanding the consequences of their provision that really matters.

Now, one can make the argument that it’s impossible for any Member of Congress to really understand what’s in a 2,000 page bill, and that relying on summary reports from public policy institutes that may have agendas or biases of their own is no way to govern a nation, but that’s another issue entirely.

The length and complexity of modern-day Federal legislation is a direct function of the massive size and scope of the government itself. You can’t shrink one without shrinking the other, and concentrating on phony calls to “Read The Bill” isn’t going to accomplish a thing.

As for Cain’s idea, it’s even more impractical and pointless than the “Read The Bill” meme. Under his own rule, Cain would have vetoed the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, which I am pretty sure he supports, because they ran 114 and 18 pages, respectively. He would be unable to fund any department of the government, including the Defense Department, because funding bills typically run thousands of pages because they are required to list all the programs that Congress is authorizing funding for. He would have been required to veto the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It’s a simple idea, the crowd probably loved it, but it would accomplish absolutely nothing. More importantly, if Cain actually does become President you can be assured he’ll have to violate this pledge within months of taking office.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Congress, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Hey Norm says:

    How many pages do you think were in the franchise agreements for his pizza restaurants?

  2. Chad S says:

    This is why Members of Congresses have staffs. They read the bill, then summarize it for the Member.

  3. Norm,

    Bingo.

  4. CB says:

    Now, one can make the argument that it’s impossible for any Member of Congress to really understand what’s in a 2,000 page bill, and that relying on summary reports from public policy institutes that may have agendas or biases of their own is no way to govern a nation, but that’s another issue entirely.

    well, wait a minute, i thought that was the issue? if youre not reading the bill, then youre merely relying on secondhand interpretation, arent you? i understand delegating to aides, consulting the authors, and so forth, but that just seems a little contradictory as it pertains to the point of the ‘read the bill’ folks.

  5. MKS says:

    “The length and complexity of modern-day Federal legislation is a direct function of the massive size and scope of the government itself. You can’t shrink one without shrinking the other, …”

    Correct, and that is what is needed: shrinking the federal government down to its Constitutionally enumerated powers and functions. Let the states and local governments handle the rest, and then you have many governmental “laboratories” where innovative solutions prosper.

    We need a U.S. Tax Code that is about 20 pages long. The current one is a compendium of concessions to special interests, and we all are probably guilty of one violationor another, and no one has discovered which it is yet.

    Mr. Cain’s goal is laudable.

  6. James Joyner says:

    I’m sympathetic to the idea of shorter, more compact bills. For example, it makes sense to have legislation that’s aimed at doing one fairly narrow thing rather than a myriad of loosely related — or even totally unrelated things. That’s politically difficult given our system, but an ideal.

    But 3 page legislation would actually have the opposite impact of what Cain seems to think. The result would be much greater power to unelected, unfirable bureaucrats who would have to come up with hundreds of pages of regulations to implement each law.

  7. @James,

    We could probably solve those problems at least a little if both Chambers of Congress enforced their rules about the germaneness of amendments more often.

  8. newrouter says:

    you can eliminate much of the federal government in a 3 page bill.

  9. MM says:

    you can eliminate much of the federal government in a 3 page bill.

    You can also create years of ambiguity in a 3 page bill. The constitution is a relatively sort document written in pretty plain English and we still have disagreements about what a well-regulated militia is, what the general welfare is and what the commerce clause covers.

  10. Drew says:

    Impractical? I’ve read a lot of dumb things on this site, but that’s going up in the annals. Are you arguing by default that it is more ‘practical’ to implement thousand-page laws than it is three-page laws? Are you implying that the Federal Tax Code and its what, sixty thousand pages, would typify your vaunted ‘practicality?’ Your entire position is inane, and it relieves in stark detail the problem ENTIRE in letting the country be run by lawyers. The violence done to language as common practice in the legal arena presents barriers to entry and comprehension in citizenship incompatible with republican principles of government. All it does, in fact, is subsidize the training of more lawyers.

    Herman Cain is on point and has reason on his side when he comes out against injudicable law. Beyond that, a four year term wherein no bills were signed would be an unalloyed boon to the United States.

  11. reid says:

    3 pages seems awfully wordy. Why not 140 characters?

  12. Southern Hoosier says:

    Herman Cain’s Silly Idea And The Silly “Read The Bill” Meme

    Yeah that is almost as silly as:

    We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it”

    http://goo.gl/ygUp0

  13. A voice from another precinct says:

    CB asked on relying on 2nd hand interpretations, “well, wait a minute, i thought that was the issue? if youre not reading the bill, then youre merely relying on secondhand interpretation…”

    Doug’s pronoun fault–using only “that” where what “that” is can be misunderstood–is what has created the problem here. “…but that’s another issue entirely” could refer to relying on second hand information as CB objects. But, it is also likely that Doug is refering to the idea that public policy institutes have agendas (in this case, nefarious ones) that show their bias toward or against an issue.

    We’ll never know unless Doug clarifies which “that” is his nonconcern. On the other hand, I would expect that an experienced politician always knows that everything that he reads–including the bills that Herman Cain wishes to be reduced to 3 pages–is prepared with some sort of agenda (mostly, in this case, nefarious). If he or she doesn’t realize this, then that ignorance (note the corrected form) is REALLY pathetic.

  14. steve says:

    Drew- All of your contracts are three pages or less? Remember, Cain is not talking about a principle that everyone can agree with, making bills shorter and easier to read. He is setting a concrete limit of three pages. That would require unprecedented legislation by the judiciary to clarify what bills really mean.

    Steve

  15. newrouter says:

    “Remember, Cain is not talking about a principle that everyone can agree with, making bills shorter and easier to read. He is setting a concrete limit of three pages.”

    no cain is talking about “making bills shorter and easier to read” and threw out 3 pages as a rhetorical flourish.

  16. Michael says:

    The result would be much greater power to unelected, unfirable bureaucrats who would have to come up with hundreds of pages of regulations to implement each law.

    Either that or the Congress would be forced to implement each individual rule and regulation as a separate bill, effectively giving the President the line-item veto power they’ve long been denied. If I thought higher of Cain, I’d be inclined to believe that this was his genuine intent.

    As a software engineer, I’m always inclined to reject code patches that change more than 1000 lines of code. I think this is a good guiding principle, but not all changes can be made in independent, concise changes, and sometimes you have to make exceptions to do what needs to be done. ACA was a prime example of this, you couldn’t make most of those changes in isolation, you can’t require coverage of pre-existing conditions without the individual mandate, or reduce payouts to hospitals without provider more universal access to insurance by those that show up in their ER.

  17. trizzlor says:

    I wonder if Mr. Cain read every page of the myriad of contracts he signed as an entrepreneur. Rather, I’m quite sure he relied on his legal team to read and understand the details (that being their specialty) and made the larger executive decisions based on their advice.

    Is a contract bad if it’s longer than 3 pages? Is a scientific paper bad if it’s longer than 3 pages? Is a persuasive essay bad if it’s longer than 3 pages? Why should bills be any different?

  18. Michael says:

    Yeah that is almost as silly as:

    “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it”

    As much as you like to make fun of that line, the facts of the matter are that all bills in Congress are in a constant state of flux up until the moment they are passed and reconciled. In the same way an artist never knows what his painting will look like until it’s finished, and an author never knows what his book will be until it’s published, and a singer doesn’t know what their album will sound like until it’s done being recorded/auto-tuned.

  19. Southern Hoosier says:

    Michael says: Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 20:32

    the facts of the matter are that all bills in Congress are in a constant state of flux up until the moment they are passed and reconciled

    Are you calling Comrade President a liar??

    Allow five days of public comment before signing bills

    To reduce bills rushed through Congress and to the president before the public has the opportunity to review them, Obama “will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House website for five days.”

    http://goo.gl/o15Ky

  20. Michael says:

    I don’t see how that contradicts what I said in any way.

  21. newrouter says:

    “Is a contract bad if it’s longer than 3 pages? Is a scientific paper bad if it’s longer than 3 pages? Is a persuasive essay bad if it’s longer than 3 pages? Why should bills be any different?”

    there is some fine “inside the beltway” mentality in this thread.

  22. newrouter says:

    the initial post screams inside the beltway. you be lookin’ for georgetown invites. ’cause hey we gots some big gov’t you snowhoochies and negroes just don’t understand.

  23. Michael says:

    the initial post screams inside the beltway. you be lookin’ for georgetown invites. ’cause hey we gots some big gov’t you snowhoochies and negroes just don’t understand.

    The initial post assumes that readers are intelligent enough to understand a 3-page bill and the “Read the Bill” meme are nothing more that impossible rhetoric. Obviously you think that those of us “outside the beltway” aren’t capable of understanding this things. So who’s elitist?

  24. barbbtx says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoslK47z_X0
    3 pages may be an exaggeration but he better keep them under 10 pages for the democrats.
    Eric Holder didn’t have time to read the 10 page AZ law bill before saying (several times in the news) it was racial profiling, and was going to file suit against it. He finally got called out on it and said he hadn’t even read it.
    Cain has this one right. There should be a law that our congressman must read bills before they vote on them. Poor John Conyers, on the HC bill. “Read the bill? Read the bill? That would take days and you’d need lawyers to understand the bill”

  25. Southern Hoosier says:

    Michael says:
    Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 21:00

    I don’t see how that contradicts what I said in any way.

    I guess you are right. Now that I think about it, what good does it do for Comrade President to wait 5 days to sign a bill? The bill is already passed.

  26. Jay Tea says:

    I think we’re seeing an example of Doug’s blind spot. He’s a lawyer, and thinks like one. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not always the best approach.

    The way legislation is made now is the result of having way too many lawyers making law, and not enough people with more real-world pragmatic experience. Lawyers write laws intended for other lawyers — and the vast majority of us ain’t lawyers, and don’t want to have to consult lawyers over every single trivial little matter. We want laws that we can understand, and resent the idea that we need to pay someone several hundred dollars to explain the law to us to keep us out of trouble.

    As noted, Cain’s “three pages” was a rhetorical flourish — but his basic point is incredibly sound. Just look at our lawyer-written tax code. If you ask several IRS experts tax questions, you can get several contradictory answers — but the taxpayer is still on the hook for obeying the law that the IRS itself can’t consistently explain.

    That’s quite possibly the most egregious example, but it’s hardly unique.

    As far as the “staff” excuse… I ain’t buying it. The “staff” isn’t elected, the “staff” doesn’t cast the vote. It’s the Member of Congress that is ultimately responsible, and if they can’t explain to their bosses — that’s us voters — just what a bill they voted on does and why they voted for it, then they have no business being in office.

    I was involved in student government. If I couldn’t find a compelling reason for something, or simply didn’t understand it, I’d either vote no or abstain — after I’d done all I could to find out what the motion involved. And yeah, that was student government, but the principle holds.

    Or, at least, it should.

    J.

  27. Michael says:

    I guess you are right. Now that I think about it, what good does it do for Comrade President to wait 5 days to sign a bill? The bill is already passed.

    Are you actually this ignorant, or are you just trolling?

  28. Michael says:

    I was involved in student government.

    Wow…

  29. Jay Tea says:

    So, Michael, are you saying that the principle of “don’t vote for crap you don’t understand” doesn’t apply to Congress? Or you just being an a-hole?

    J.

  30. Michael says:

    So, Michael, are you saying that the principle of “don’t vote for crap you don’t understand” doesn’t apply to Congress? Or you just being an a-hole?

    I’m saying that members of Congress understand the bill without having to read it’s actual text. That’s because, like Doug said, the actual text is worthless for explaining what it does.

    Have you ever read the text of a bill? It’s basically “Add this sentence to article foo subsection bar of the USC, then change sentence x in article y subsection z to read this, then…blah blah blah”. The actual text of a bill is written only after the authors have decided what it will do, not the other way around. The committee and staff’s job is just to tell their Congressman whether or not the actual text does what the author says it will do. Again the understanding comes before the reading.

  31. Jay Tea says:

    I’m saying that members of Congress understand the bill without having to read it’s actual text.

    Maybe in your universe, but in mine then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for support of ObamaCare by saying “we’ll have to pass it so you can see what’s in it.” In my universe, bills have secret little clauses and loopholes that, once passed, have a bunch of people who voted on it saying “I had no idea that was in there” and “we have no way of knowing who put that in there.”

    I like your universe better, Michael. Can I move there?

    J.

  32. Michael says:

    In my universe, bills have secret little clauses and loopholes that, once passed, have a bunch of people who voted on it saying “I had no idea that was in there” and “we have no way of knowing who put that in there.”

    That’s because, in your universe, politicians lie to their constituents in order to get re-elected, and then they knowingly pass necessary legislation that their next election opponents will try to attack them for, because that person is also going to lie to the constituents by telling them that they weren’t necessary, and the vast majority of voters can’t be bothered to understand the situation enough to realize either that the legislation was necessary or that both politicians are lying to them about it.

    Oh wait, they do that in my universe too.

  33. mantis says:

    Shorter Jay Tea: Lawyers should not be involved in writing laws.

  34. Jay Tea says:

    Longer mantis: I don’t understand the difference between “way too many” and “there should be none.” Can someone loan me a dictionary, please?

    According to a quick check, there are currently 189 attorneys in Congress. With 535 members, that puts the percentage just over 35%. Toss in Obama and Biden, jack the denominator to 537, and it goes up to just over 35.5%.

    Anyone want to make an argument that having over 1/3 of our national legislature made up of lawyers is a GOOD thing?

    “If you have one lawyer in town, he or she will go broke. If you have two lawyers in town, they’ll both get rich.”

    J.

  35. mantis says:

    Anyone want to make an argument that having over 1/3 of our national legislature made up of lawyers is a GOOD thing?

    Yes, that is a good thing. I also think that having 1/3 of NASA made up of engineers is a good thing.*

    Question for you Jay: how many of the writers of the Constitution were lawyers? It may be easier for you to count how many were not lawyers. Too many?

    * I’m not really sure if 1/3 of NASA employees are engineers, but it’s a good guess.

  36. steve says:

    I have met with our (Republican) Congressman several times. It is clear he does not read bills. His staff does that for him. CEOs do not read every page of every contract.

    The three page limit is not clearly a flourish. If you read the Tea Party ten point plan it called for a precise limit on the length of all bills. If Vain does not mean what he says, perhaps after every speech he could publish an interpretation.

    Steve

  37. Michael says:

    Anyone want to make an argument that having over 1/3 of our national legislature made up of lawyers is a GOOD thing?

    Yes. I think that would be a pretty easy argument to make, actually. Unless you’re of the “I don’t trust people who are experts in the subject” opinion. Like, you know, biologists on evolution or climatologist on climate change, or historians on history. But I’m sure you’re not like that.

  38. Jay Tea says:

    Lawyers ain’t scientists. Lawyers ain’t scholars. Lawyers are lawyers.

    And the lawyers of the 18th century ain’t the lawyers of today.

    America isn’t 1/3 lawyers. Why should we be governed by that demographic?

    They just rewrote the entire health care system, overhauling 1/6 of the economy. Wouldn’t some doctors, accountants, insurance execs, etc. have been useful there? Hell, how about a few people who’ve had to manage a payroll, and know what insurance costs are to businesses?

    I also think we need a bit more “common sense” and practical experience than highly-educated theoreticians who have never had to live with the consequences of their theories.

    Lawyers write laws for other lawyers. A 35% rate of attorneys in the legislature is practically a “lawyer full employment program” for the nation.

    J.

  39. mantis says:

    Lawyers ain’t scientists. Lawyers ain’t scholars. Lawyers are lawyers.

    Yeah, what do they know about laws? Nuthin, that’s what!

    And the lawyers of the 18th century ain’t the lawyers of today.

    What’s the cutoff year for when lawyers became evil?

    America isn’t 1/3 lawyers. Why should we be governed by that demographic?

    Because one of the primary functions of government is to write and enforce laws, and adjudicate based on those laws.

    They just rewrote the entire health care system, overhauling 1/6 of the economy.

    No, that’s not what really happened, but I can understand why you think that. Listening to Rush and his ilk makes you stupid, if you weren’t already there.

    Wouldn’t some doctors, accountants, insurance execs, etc. have been useful there?

    You think none of those people were involved in the process? If so, you’re an idiot or a liar. Oh wait, we already know you’re both.

  40. Jay Tea says:

    mantis, you didn’t have to make up words to put in other people’s mouths to win arguments. I NEVER said keep all lawyers out of public office. What the hell happened, dude?

    I dunno what inspired your faith in the infallibility and perfection of a lawyer-governed society — maybe it was your worship of John Edwards, or of Barack and Michelle Obama, or of Bill and Hillary Clinton, or of Charlie Rangel, or Eric Holder, or Barney Frank, or any of countless other fine, upstanding, incorruptible lawyers who’ve served the federal government in a variety of (elected and unelected) roles. I can see how having them show how innately inclined towards honesty, integrity, and fairness would tend to make one think that all lawyers are as upstanding citizens and worthy of trust as these fine folks.

    (Feel free to nominate Republican attorneys you think equally worthy of such respect.)

    New Hampshire currently has one lawyer (career prosecutor), one teacher, one career pol, and one never-practiced lawyer in Washington, and they do OK. Our governor’s a doctor, and he’s OK for a Democrat.

    NO profession should dominate over one-third of Congress. Not even your beloved lawyers.

    J.

  41. mantis says:

    mantis, you didn’t have to make up words to put in other people’s mouths to win arguments. I NEVER said keep all lawyers out of public office. What the hell happened, dude?

    You said the problem with this country is too many lawyers write laws. You have absolutely nothing good, and everything bad, to say about lawyers. And I’m supposed to act like you’re not pinning our nation’s problems on the backs of all lawyers? Whatever you say, dude.

    I dunno what inspired your faith in the infallibility and perfection of a lawyer-governed society

    You were saying something about putting words in other people’s mouths? You do it all the time, in pretty much every argument you make, as you did right here, so forgive me if I don’t give a shit about your complaints. Bullshit ignored.

    maybe it was your worship of John Edwards, or of Barack and Michelle Obama, or of Bill and Hillary Clinton, or of Charlie Rangel, or Eric Holder, or Barney Frank

    Please provide evidence of my “worship” of any of those individuals.

    New Hampshire currently has one lawyer (career prosecutor), one teacher, one career pol, and one never-practiced lawyer in Washington, and they do OK. Our governor’s a doctor, and he’s OK for a Democrat.

    So by your assessment 50% of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation are lawyers, and that’s just fine, but 1/3 of the overall Congress is too much? You sure do know how to make a retarded argument, don’t you?

    Btw, the second lawyer you referenced is Frank Guinta, I assume. He’s not actually a lawyer, but holds a master’s degree in intellectual property law. So I guess somewhere between 25% – 33% everything goes to shit.

  42. Davebo says:

    Look, it’s simple folks.

    Cain wants to read every bill before he votes.

    Unfortunately, he has a very short attention span.

  43. Rob in CT says:

    Brevity is not clarity. Sometimes the two are in direct conflict.

  44. Michael says:

    I also think we need a bit more “common sense” and practical experience than highly-educated theoreticians who have never had to live with the consequences of their theories.

    You say that like “common sense” produces better results than theory. Do you have numbers to support this? I bet you don’t. But still you stick with the “I don’t trust people who are experts in the subject” mentality. So I guess the real question is, why do you hate smart people so much?

    I dunno what inspired your faith in the infallibility and perfection of a lawyer-governed society — maybe it was your worship of John Edwards, or of Barack and Michelle Obama, or of Bill and Hillary Clinton, or of Charlie Rangel, or Eric Holder, or Barney Frank, or any of countless other fine, upstanding, incorruptible lawyers who’ve served the federal government

    Your initial complaint was that lawyers aren’t capable of writing good laws. Then your complaint what that they don’t match the demographics. Now your complaint is that they have ethics problems? Pick one thing, and defend it or concede it, but stop jumping from one complaint to another hoping nobody notices the change.

  45. Barry says:

    Michael: “As a software engineer, I’m always inclined to reject code patches that change more than 1000 lines of code. I think this is a good guiding principle, but not all changes can be made in independent, concise changes, and sometimes you have to make exceptions to do what needs to be done. ACA was a prime example of this, you couldn’t make most of those changes in isolation, you can’t require coverage of pre-existing conditions without the individual mandate, or reduce payouts to hospitals without provider more universal access to insurance by those that show up in their ER.”

    And in addition, the analogy would be a like a set of software patches where some people could block the implementation of some patches. Putting things together and forcing it to be up/down as a block makes sense.

  46. Michael says:

    And in addition, the analogy would be a like a set of software patches where some people could block the implementation of some patches. Putting things together and forcing it to be up/down as a block makes sense.

    I assume you’re talking about the amendment process. I see that as a separate “branch” of the USC, where members submit patches in the form of amendments to that branch. Then, once enough of the members are happy with the result, the entire “branch” is proposed for merging into the USC, with the President acting as the release manager.

    In fact, it would be nice if Congress used some software source control tools to do exactly this. It would make it much easier for people to evaluate, I think. Easier for us software engineers anyway.

  47. Jay Tea says:

    Forget that, Michael. Software engineers? You don’t rate. The lawyers write the laws for other lawyers. Putting it in a form you — or anyone else with a bit of common sense, education, intelligence, and logic — could understand would undermine the entire legal profession.

    And don’t question your betters. They don’t like it.

    J.

  48. Michael says:

    Putting it in a form you — or anyone else with a bit of common sense, education, intelligence, and logic — could understand would undermine the entire legal profession.

    It’s already in simple text formats, it wouldn’t take much to put it under source control. I somehow doubt the reason it hasn’t is nefarious. If it is, they’re most incompetent evil cabal ever assembled. A far more likely explanation is that they, like 99% of the population, doesn’t know these wonderful tools exist.

  49. Jay Tea says:

    Michael, it’s somewhere between your “they don’t know any better” and the implied “grand conspiracy by lawyers” notion. The lawyers have their own way of thinking that is inculcated in them by years of training and practice, and they apply that far more than they should.

    J.

  50. Michael says:

    The lawyers have their own way of thinking that is inculcated in them by years of training and practice

    Well now I’m curious, what research led you to this conclusion?

  51. Jay Tea says:

    You come in here with a skull full of mush and you leave thinking like a lawyer.

    You’ve NEVER HEARD terms like “thinking like a lawyer,” or heard the pejorative phrase “rules lawyer?”

    Sheesh…

    J.

  52. mantis says:

    Aww, Jay got tired of even trying to make coherent arguments, not that he was succeeding when he did try.

  53. mannning says:

    The operative idea here is to express the law clearly and accurately, taking however many pages necessary to do the job. The second operative idea is to summarize accurately all of the provisions of the law in relatively simple terms so that non-specialists in the genre can grasp what is being proposed as law. The third idea is for all of those with the authority to vote or sign proposals into law read the summary and also have verbal assistance from staff where needed for understanding. The fourth idea is for a review board of specialists in the genre to ascertain whether the language in the law and in the summary accurately reflects the law, or to rewrite it so as to meet the goal of clarity before the bill is passed, and sent to be signed by the president. The fifth idea is for the public in general to have access and sufficient time to read and question the texts of either the bill itself or of the summaries as approved and react as needed well before passage. The sixth idea is to wish for honesty of presentation of the contents of the proposed legislation at every step of the process.

    I do not believe this ideal has been achieved during this administration, especially in the case of Obamacare–not even close!

  54. Michael says:

    I do not believe this ideal has been achieved during this administration, especially in the case of Obamacare–not even close!

    Five out of six ain’t bad.

  55. mannning says:

    @ Michael

    Oh Yeah? Honesty being the miss?

  56. Michael says:

    Honesty being the miss?

    Yes.

  57. Brian Garst says:

    Three pages may not be practical, but shorter would be better. Also, all Bartlett is doing is arguing from the status quo (and if you’re going to identify him with his time with Reagan, you should also be kind enough to point out that he’s now a liberal). There is no reason why legislation HAS to be written as pure legalese, it just is, largely because it’s written by lawyers who benefit when they are the only ones who can understand it.

  58. Michael says:

    (and if you’re going to identify him with his time with Reagan, you should also be kind enough to point out that he’s now a liberal

    I’m willing to bet most Reagan Republicans would be considered liberals by today’s Republicans.

  59. mannning says:

    @ Michael

    Then the entire dishonest process is null and void in my mind.

  60. Michael says:

    Then the entire dishonest process is null and void in my mind.

    I don’t understand why. Each of those items you mentioned was done by different groups of people. The fact that one group didn’t live up to the ideal doesn’t invalidate the work done by all the preceding groups.

  61. mannning says:

    In my opinion, dishonesty reigned at every step and within each group that participated, most notably by the President himself, who in the end, didn’t really know what was in the bill. 6 of 6 were bad!