Sunday, November 4, 2007

The "Read the Bills Act" and Common Sense

Recently, I’ve had the chance to read Thomas Paine’s treatise entitled “Common Sense.” In it, Thomas Paine basically talks about what was happening in his times between the British colonies on the continent of North America and the country of Great Britain which was charged with protecting the colonies. He spoke of events that are history now, but were news events of the day back then. He spoke of things that just seemed to make common sense to him. For instance, he argued that heredity was a poor way to choose a ruler, that just because someone was the son of a king didn’t mean that he’d make a good king. He argued against reconciliation with Great Britain, as the Boston massacre had already taken place and that once the fighting had started reconciliation would only open the door to further abuse. He argued that the king of England was a tyrant and that he was not interested in what was good for the American colonists, only what was good for him. There is a lot to be learned from Thomas Paine’s writings, and unfortunately far too few Americans read his work today or understand its meaning.

Much of Thomas Paine’s writings can be applied to today’s world. For instance, he speaks of a tyrannical king and a government not attending to the needs of the common man in the colonies. He spoke of trade being blocked and unfair taxes being levied. Of course there were people who felt differently back then, who felt a loyalty to the king of England and argued against breaking free of his influence. Thomas Paine just plain made better sense. Why would anyone want to keep around an abusive government? Thomas Paine’s writings helped win over the hearts and minds of many Americans and they went on to defeat a very powerful occupation force and win their independence. Today, the United States of America has become the pre-eminent power in the world because of its willingness to let its people and markets work free of government encumbrances, and sometimes I think in spite of itself.

Yet, there are things about modern America that just don’t seem to make sense to me. For instance, the founders of this nation fought to overthrow a tyrannical monarchy and establish a representative government, but the common man no longer seems to be represented. Instead, groups of men known as lobbyists inhabit the hallways and backrooms of our Capitol and peddle their influence to men charged with defending our Constitution. They ask our congressmen and senators to vote for this bill or against that bill. They do this not for the sake of the common man, and certainly not considering the sanctity of the constitution, they do this for their own selfish interests and agendas. They influence the lawmakers of this country to protect their interests. Huge corporations are able to spend their millions to get our lawmakers to pass laws that will squash any competition before it can even start. Even foreign governments can lobby our lawmakers to pass laws which will benefit them, perhaps even at the expense of others or ourselves, albeit they usually do so in a roundabout way such as enlisting the help of American citizens and corporations.

There is a way to put a stop to this, and we don’t need a violent revolution to do so. There is a way to help government become more accountable, but your help is needed. There is a group called Downsize DC which is trying to get a bill passed in congress called the “Read the Bills Act.” It just makes sense that lawmakers should be required to read any bill to be put to a vote before voting on it. After all, isn’t that what we’re paying them for? How can they represent you if they don’t even know what the bills they’re voting on say? Are we supposed to trust their staffers and the lobbyists they work with to be honest with them about the meanings of the bills they vote on? How many times are laws going to be passed with names that are exactly the opposite of the true nature of the bill before lawmakers realize what’s going on? To vote for or against a bill on the word of another without reading and understanding it is not how one should go about representing the people of one’s district, it is foolish and it is negligent. The lawmakers have been negligent of their duties and abusive to the people of this country for far too long, and they have done so by taking money in the form of political contributions from one group while pandering to the desires of another. The “Read the Bills Act” just makes sense.

In a nut shell, the “Read the Bills Act” will require every lawmaker, under the legal penalties of perjury, to read every word of every bill before voting on it. It will make sure that penalties are in place for those lawmakers who do not read the bill. It will require that the bill be posted on the Internet for a week before it’s voted on so the public can read it, get in touch with their representatives, and let them know what they think about it. Personally, I think that a month would be more appropriate as most people today have busy lives and some may not be able to keep up with these bills on a weekly basis, but a week would be a start. It would require that any amendments to the bill also be subject to the “Read the Bills Act” so that no new stipulations could be sneaked into the bill just before the vote. Such a law simply makes sense. Most everyone else in this country has to do their job properly or risk being fired, why shouldn’t it be the same for our lawmakers?

The benefits to the common people of this legislation would be many. Government growth would slow. Intrusive and unconstitutional laws likely would not be passed. The interests of this nation would take precedent above the interests of corporations. Most of all, our representatives would have to represent us, or they would be held accountable. More information can be found at Please go to their website and learn how you can help. They have done a wonderful job making it easy for the common person’s voice to be heard. Remember, a few pebbles falling can start an avalanche. You can be the pebble that starts the shift that leads to change.