This week Fox News had the “World’s Fastest Speed Reader" read the Senate health care bill. It took him 44 minutes to read the 1,500-page epic.
I suppose it's good that groups like Read to Vote ("If you can't read it, you can't pass it") demand that congressmen read bills before they pass them, but it seems hopeless to expect the gasbags to do that much work instead of gab on TV, travel the world for free and dispense favors to cronies.
Gene Healy of the Cato Institute writes that simplifying laws would help:
In Abraham Lincoln's first State of the Union, he worried about the growing complexity of federal law, but noted that, with a modest effort at revision, "all the acts of Congress now in force [could fit in] one or two volumes of ordinary and convenient size."
Today, the Senate Finance Committee's 1,502-page health-care bill would take up more than that much space by itself.
Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) had a good idea: New laws would have to be posted on the Internet 72 hours before consideration. But that went nowhere; the Democrats blocked the amendment.
After all, who wants Internet pundits getting into the details?
Healy believes laws like Bunning's, while well-intentioned, only treat the symptoms. Government's intrusiveness is the real problem.
Federal law has become incomprehensible because Congress has inserted itself into every area of American life. As James Madison explained, though, Congress's constitutional powers are "few and defined.... [to be] exercised principally on external objects," like foreign policy and international trade.
Read the bills? It's more important for congressmen to read the Constitution. They'll be pleased to learn that it's short.