February 21, 2009

The Complexity Bubble May Not Deflate

At least, not without taking society with it.

I've remarked, elsewhere if not here, that Congress routinely passes bills that are too long to read. Obviously, things are being insinuated into those bills. Here's an example in the 'stimulus' legislation:
The provision, which attracted virtually no attention in the debate over the 1,073-page stimulus bill, creates something called the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board...The board would oversee the in-house watchdogs, known as inspectors general, whose job is to independently investigate allegations of wrongdoing at various federal agencies, without fear of interference by political appointees or the White House.

In the name of accountability and transparency, Congress has given the RAT Board the authority to ask “that an inspector general conduct or refrain from conducting an audit or investigation.”...(p)The language means that the board — whose chairman will be appointed by the president — can reach deep inside a federal agency and tell an inspector general to lay off some particularly sensitive subject. Or, conversely, it can tell the inspector general to go after a tempting political target.

I asked Grassley how he learned that the RAT Board was part of the stimulus bill. You’d think that as a member of the House-Senate conference committee, he would have known all about it. But it turns out Grassley’s office first heard about the provision creating the RAT Board last Wednesday, in a tip from a worried inspector general...(p)When I inquired with the office of a Democratic senator, one who is a big fan of inspectors general, I was told the RAT Board was “something the Obama administration wanted included in this bill.”
Note both the power grab by the White House and the fact that it was snuck into an unrelated piece of legislation that the people who passed it did not read in its entirety.

Things fall apart?

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