Having outside interests is one of the things that keeps our creative staff so creative. While I’m not bold enough to think my creative talents approach those of Mustang’s writers and designers, I do have outside interests.
One of these interests is politics. For example, here is the op-ed I wrote that ran in the Ventura County Star last Sunday. I hope you enjoy it!
Here is a link to the article, or you can read it below.
Scott Harris: A do-nothing Congress? Thank you!
4:19 PM, Jan 3, 2015
PICTURE BY J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE
The 80th Congress (1947-1949) was dubbed the “Do Nothing Congress” by then-President Harry Truman. This was based on the 80th Congress passing “only” 906 laws in its two-year term.
We are now reading quite a few articles and op-eds around the country lamenting that the 113th Congress (2013-14), whose term is now ending, “only” passed 296 laws — the second least since the 1940s. The current record holder is the 112th Congress (2011-12) with “only” 283 laws passed.
House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, blames the Senate: “The House has passed hundreds of bills, including dozens of great jobs bills, that Senate Democrats have simply ignored. That’s not how our system is supposed to work.” At the same time, President Obama — and almost every other high-level Democrat — has been long pointing at the GOP as “obstructionist.”
Regardless of which side you agree with, it does seem clear that hyper-partisanship has reduced the number of laws passed over the past four years. And if much of this lack of productivity can be blamed on partisanship, then allow me to tip my cap to partisanship.
I have never once woken up in the morning and thought: I hope Congress passes more laws. Yes, I have on occasion supported the idea of a specific law and, certainly, some laws are good and even necessary. However, is there any rational person who doesn’t think that maybe we have a few too many laws? At what point in our history (perhaps it can be traced back to Truman) did we begin confusing the quantity of laws with the quality of laws?
Judging our elected officials based on the number of laws they pass is a recipe for disaster. It increases the number of laws that all of us are ignorant of and that many of us — due to said ignorance — break.
Many in law enforcement are suggesting that we have too many laws, turning too many good people into criminals, many unknowingly. Does New York City really need a law against selling “loosies”? The tragedy involving the death of Eric Garner might have been avoided if police weren’t required to cite/arrest a man for selling a lousy cigarette.
And please don’t suggest that police shouldn’t enforce what many would consider a silly or minor law. If the law is on the books and it is being broken, police do not — and should never — have the option of picking and choosing which laws to enforce and with whom they enforce them.
There are approximately 25,000 pages of federal laws. The Justice Department spent more than two years trying to determine the total number of federal criminal laws. They were unable to do so!
They did come up with an approximate number of 3,000, but if the Justice Department doesn’t know how many laws there are, how can those charged with public safety be expected to know? How are we, as citizens, expected to know?
Harvey Silvergate recently published a book entitled “Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent.” You may or may not have committed three felonies yesterday, but don’t you find the idea that you might have just a little disconcerting?
At this point, you may be thinking, “No way. I’m a law-abiding citizen.”
Let me ask you a question: In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, any chance you mistakenly received junk mail addressed to one of your neighbors? If so, like most of us, did you throw it out? If so, you are guilty of “obstruction of correspondence” (18 U.S. Code, Section 1702), punishable by up to five years in prison. Curious now about approximately 2,999 other federal laws you may have recently broken?
Allow me to make a couple of suggestions. First, as those who elect the members of Congress, let’s find another way of measuring the success or failure of Congress than the quantity of laws.
Second, allow me to suggest to members of Congress that before you go racing off introducing new laws, how about taking a look at some of the antiquated existing laws and see if you can’t find a few to remove.
And finally, perhaps a thank-you to the 112th and 113th Congresses for “only” passing 579 new laws.
Scott Harris, of Thousand Oaks, is the owner of Mustang Marketing. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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