Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What's In A Name?

Having recently had parts of The Bi-Partisan Campaign Reform Act (better known as McCain-Feingold) struck down by the Supreme Court, you would think that Congress would hesitate to once again attempt to institute controls in campaign finance mostly designed to insure re-election of incumbents. 

Proving once again that no bad idea should be abandoned however, such an effort recently saw the light of day in the form of The DISCLOSE Act. Congress claimed yet again that election spending must be both restrained and transparent lest the entire electoral process implode from rampant abuse. (Would that Congress could turn the same careful scrutiny on its own hidden and unrestrained spending.) Debate on the issue was blocked in the Senate however by a Republican minority that is often accused of the most heinous abuses in this area. 

The demand for restraint and transparency called for by Democrats might seem ironic however, considering the lack of either behavior on the part of the sitting President (also a Democrat, by the way) in the last election; even though the supposed protections afforded by McCain-Feingold were in place (though it must be conceded in all fairness that such behavior was not strictly required of him under its provisions, since he took no federal matching funds)

There was little redeeming in this latest failed legislative effort, excepting perhaps for its name (or more accurately, its acronym): Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Election. Even those of us who believe that such legislation is misguided at best, and an abridgment of the rights of free speech and assembly in this country at worst, had to admit that the name was a damned good one. For all of its failings, Congress it appears is quite good at the business of adroitly labeling its sometimes odorous pieces of tripe in order to disguise their maleficence. 

Take for example the recently passed health care reform legislation, known in Congress as The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. As we are only now beginning to discover (you have to pass it to know what's in it), this cleverly named bit of legal maneuvering apparently provides little in the way of a true patient bulwark, and even less in the way of affordable care (unless perhaps, through the potential affordability that rationing provides). It proved a very clever alias though, if what you were attempting was to obscure the legislation's inherent deficiencies. 

Yet another example might be recently passed financial reform, known in the Capitol as The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. Although little was done in this edict to prevent banks from the risky investments or the mortgage industry from the abuses that triggered the fall of Wall Street (and encouraged Congress to spend trillions in bailout money), and though it might be considered questionable to saddle this law with the names of two members of Congress who failed in their oversight responsibilities during the crisis that brought its supposed necessity; the name of this law admirably performed the required function of concealing its failings. 

The Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (better known as the Stimulus Bill) was yet another classic example of a well-named wolf in sheep's clothing; performing apparently little in the way of actual recovery (a topic still argued by economists attempting their own financial recovery through articles, books, and mainstream media appearances) and even less in the way of spending that could be called real reinvestment (excepting of course, investing in the growth of government)

One cannot help but look at such practices and hearken back to the heady days of the 2008 election, when then candidate Barack Obama said: "You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig." in order to characterize the program of legislative changes proposed by his opponents. Both candidates (and their running mates) went on to make "lipstick on a pig" iconic for the attempt to cover up something awful through the application of external enhancement to hide its true ugliness. 

And while it often seems that Congress is incapable of doing anything of real value for the country with the exception of taking frequent recesses, credit must be given where it's due (probably to creative staff members) for perhaps proving that the lipstick rule has exceptions. Even when their legislative efforts are intrusive, onerous, or downright dangerous; Congress has managed to artfully disguise their true intent to regulate, restrain, and defraud the American people through appellations that are little more than the masterful application of surface decoration to porcine labium. (See, I can do it too!) What's in a name? When it comes to the naming of legislation by Congress, apparently far more than legislators attempting to perform the function of cosmetologists hope we can see through.

1 comment:

mud_rake said...

Ah, yes, what's in a name- rather Shakespearean, eh? There are hundreds of people employed by both parties and the White House whose sole task is the invention of mundane or even clever titles for awful legislation and evil deeds.

Surely one can never 'top' those word-smiths who work for the Pentagon who think up clever and oh-so patriotic names for war and combat missions.

What was that artful name that GW Bush applied to his preemptive invasion of Iraq?