Thursday or Friday on the news, there was a story about a budget bill. Apparently, this budget bill (the “omnibus” budget in the US congress) was released a whole week before they were to vote on it, so that people could read it and know what they were voting on.
And this is unusual.
Normally, they are released the night before. And they are thousands of pages long. So there’s no chance that anybody voting on it will have any idea what they are voting on. And that’s the normal, accepted, practice.
Doesn’t anybody but me think that’s wrong? Surely, that’s a miscarriage of our congressional representation, no matter how you look at it, if they are voting on stuff that they haven’t read?
The story went on to say that they were finding stuff in there (which they ordinarily would have approved blindly) giving zillions of dollars to personal projects in various folks’ hometown and home states. $100,000 for this hospital. $200,000 for park benches in that town. $800,000 to renovate a statue in some town square. It’s absolutely amazing.
For a while I’ve been viewing some stories like this in a sense of awe that we have a closed-source government. We’re not permitted to see how we are being government most of the time, at least until it’s too late. Granted, this is not a simple democracy – it’s much more complex and disfunctional than that. But it would at least be nice to see what’s going on before it’s too late.
Phrases like “crafted in closed door sessions in the dark of night” should not apply to how my tax dollars are being spent, or the next way I will be harrassed when I go on a business trip.
So, I applaud the folks that released this bill early so that people could actually read what they are voting on. I sincerely hope that they are not alarmed by people finding unsavory stuff in it, to the point that they don’t do this again. I only think that it doesn’t go far enough. I think that these things should be developed entirely openly, with cvs commits going to a public website and/or mailing list of interested persons, so that each addition and extra pork can be scrutinized while it is happening. Personal accountability for every wasted dollar would put a bit of a pinch on this kind of absurd spending on personal projects.
Which brought me to another point. Some of these things were worthy projects, and I’m sure that the folks that were to benefit from them are cringing that they are now likely to lose them. But should *my* tax dollars go to pay for a children’s museum in Potowski, Utah (or whatever)? No, *my* tax dollars should go to assist kids in Kentucky, not in Utah. That’s why we have state tax, right?
Anyways, I had other rants, but I need to go make breakfast.