Fiscal cliff junk and pork bill
We have junk food, junk mail and junk bonds.
Now, thanks to our dysfunctional and devious Congress, we have junk laws like the "Taxpayer Relief Act."
Junk laws are really nothing new. The people we send to Washington to represent us have been passing legislation larded with pork or special privileges for their friends in business, agriculture and labor since the country was born.
Insiders have always known how this cynical bipartisan game is played. But now, thanks to the failure of Congress to deal with the government debt crisis it in large part created, the average American is starting to become aware of these junk bills.
Even the liberal media were outraged by what went on when Congress passed the "American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012" -- which, ironically, raised the taxes of every working American by 2 percent by returning the Social Security tax to its usual 6.2 percent level.
The "Fiscal Cliff Bill" did virtually nothing to solve the federal government's money problems or create a single job. But it was junked up with nearly $70 billion of pure pork -- including tax credits for the owners of NASCAR racetracks, wind turbine makers, Hollywood moviemakers and rum-makers in Puerto Rico.
While President Obama was promising to raise taxes on the rich but really shafting the working poor, congressional folk were so busy loading up the "Fiscal Cliff Bill" with presents for their friends that they forgot to pass the relief bill to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Members of Congress are grandmasters of deceit and dishonesty. Taking maximum advantage of every crisis or disaster that comes along, they attach their favorite pieces of pork to dishonestly named bills such as the "American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012" and the "Affordable Healthcare Act."
Members know these big important super-bills have to pass to avert a crisis, so they junk them up with their $200 million "Bridges to Nowhere" and their $59 million tax credits for the algae-growing industry.
A perfect example of how Congress gets its junk bills passed has to with the way it funds FEMA. Congress always underfunds the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Why?
Because Congress knows each year there will always be a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy that FEMA will need billions of federal dollars to address.
And when FEMA comes asking for emergency funding, members of Congress will clean out their closets and throw every piece of junk legislation they have into the relief bill, which they know will automatically pass without scrutiny.
Another reason we get junk laws is that few members of Congress actually read these monster bills before they vote for them. Nancy Pelosi's career quote is going to be her comment on the healthcare bill, "But we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it."
Law-making is not supposed to work that way. There's a rule in Congress that a bill has to be posted for 48 hours before it can be voted on. But that rule has become a joke.
Just watch C-SPAN the next time a vote is being taken in the House. You'll probably hear someone say something like, "Under suspension of the rule, we'll now vote."
What arcane parliamentary rule are they talking about? The 48-hour rule. No wonder Congress is always finding out after they vote what they just voted for. If members of Congress don't read the damn bill, they shouldn't vote on it.
I'm getting real tired of people saying, "My guy's a good guy and your guy's a bad guy." They're all acting like bad guys.
We need to start holding every member of Congress accountable. And we need more up-and-down votes in Congress, so that the next important piece of legislation doesn't become another "Fiscal Cliff Junk Bill."
Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant, and the author of "The New Reagan Revolution" (St. Martin's Press).
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.