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The Civic Sentinel The D.C. Shuffle
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On Thursday February 12th, sometime around midnight, the Stimulus Bill finally left the factory. Weighing in at 1,100 pages, with a final price tag of almost $800 Billion Dollars, this modern marvel of fiscal engineering represents the most massive spending omnibus in the history of mankind. Friday morning at 9 a.m., The House passed the bill with zero Republican support and seven Democrats voting against. Friday afternoon, the Senate passed the bill 60-38, with three Republicans in favor. $800 Billion dollars, 1,100 pages, eight inches thick. Drafted, voted, and passed in less than 24 hours.

The greatest difficulty in discussing spending bills of this magnitude is comprehension. For most of us, any dollar amount higher than last week's Lotto jackpot is meaningless. We recognize that billion exceeds million, and trillion outweighs billion, but an arbitrary cost of, say, $456 million leaves us scratching our heads. We are unfamiliar with such massive expenditures, and therefore we cannot judge their suitability.

To provide perspective, here's a quick comparison. Total cost of the Stimulus Bill: $800 Billion. Total US currency presently in circulation: $825 Billion. In short, this bill is going to cost nearly as much as all American money on earth.

Last Wednesday, Congressman Jerry Lewis (R - CA) moved that the Stimulus Bill be available in a complete and searchable format for 48 hours prior to a final vote. This suggestion passed unanimously in the House. Speaker Pelosi decided to ignore this universally supported measure and bootleg the Stimulus Bill through Congress, never mind the fact that no one is fully versed on what it contains. As Congressman John Boenher (R-Ohio) stated from the floor in Congress Friday morning: "Here we are with 1,100 pages. 1,100 pages that not one member of this body has read. Not one."

I am concerned over the passage of this bill, but not solely for its content. That conservatives disagree with a tax-and-spend approach is known, and the disdain for this bill on the right is palpable. However, as we are oft reminded, President Obama won the election, and his party won their seats in Congress. I have more faith in the process of our government than I do in either political party, and while I cannot endorse this bill, I respect the right of the People to decide the fate of the nation - even if I disagree with the method.

No, what troubles me is the brazenly elitist attitude manifest in passing this bill without review or discussion. It is one thing to demand that record amounts of money be spent, and then to make arguments for the propriety of such spending; but it is another thing to disregard calls for transparency, to keep the ingredients of this Congressional Dagwood sandwich hidden from the public, and to hustle it through under cover of darkness. The implication is that the Congressional leadership knows what is best for the country, that we need not concern ourselves with the details, and that we better hurry, because if we don't get this thing passed soon, the whole country is going to come apart at the seams.

What hubris! Transparency and accountability are the only safeguards we have against the voracious appetite of Congress. If appropriations happen behind closed doors, how do we know where our money is spent? If we do not know, how do we judge the effectiveness of our politicians in representing our interests? If we cannot, then the entire process is moot, and we are ruled by a de facto congressional oligarchy. Only when Congress is in plain sight can they be expected to legislate responsibly.

Fear is the enemy of logic, and the anxious phrase on everyone's lips is "Something Must Be Done." From the President, to Congress, to the Everyman on the street, this resonating aphorism murmurs through the throngs and streaks across the airwaves. But is it enough to merely do something? Or should we do something effective? If my house is on fire, throwing gasoline on it is something; throwing water on it is something effective. Doing a wrong thing is often worse than doing nothing.

The Stimulus Bill has danced through Congress unhindered, at great expense to us. The question is: is it effective? Since no one has even read the bill, much less discussed it, how can we know?

A wise man once said: "I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them."

He also said: "Delay is preferable to error."

The wise man? Thomas Jefferson.

Jubal McMillan is an Escalon businessman, Video Xtreme, and contributes a monthly column for The Times. He can be reached via email at