The following post, written by The Rev. Robert A. Franek, is a part of Politicus Policy Discussion, in which writers draw connections between real lives and public policy.
Congressional Republicans are known for being the people who seek to eliminate all forms of waste, fraud, and abuse when it comes to government spending. However, this argument only seems to be dragged out when it comes to social safety-net and anti-poverty programs. When it comes to allocating money to feed the hungry or help those experiencing any difficulty in life the programs are put under strenuous scrutiny and need to show maximum efficiency to justify receiving even meager allotments.
There are numerous arguments to be made regarding which budget line items are scrutinized and which are glossed over. However, these arguments are well worn. It is patently obvious that in order to feel tough militarily we continue to build planes and tanks the Department of Defense says we don’t need. It is also plain as day that funding to help people and families have food, medicine, education, child care, etc. are routinely on the budget chopping block and rarely expanded because the myth of creating a culture of dependency persists.
There is broad consensus around eliminating or at least reducing waste, fraud, and abuse in government programs. However, it seems the focus is often on saving pennies over dollars. Yet, there is another often overlooked resource that is perhaps more valuable than the financial aspect alone. This resource is time.
Given the limited time Congress is in session and the time it takes to draft and debate legislation, time is a valuable resource and must be used wisely and effectively. What bills are worthy of debate and amendments and what bills have no business being introduced? These are essential questions that must be asked.
Congress cannot serve the people of the country well when spending their time on legislation that does not address the current needs and issues at the heart of people’s lives.
Since this Congress was sworn in, in early January, repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has been among their primary goals. No time was wasted passing the necessary motions to do this through the process of reconciliation. And much legislative time has been spent crafting shoddy bills that are at best tax cuts for the rich and at worst homicide by policy. None of them improve health care because they are not designed to. They have been designed to appease donors and fulfill a party goal of shredding President Barack Obama’s legacy, especially the signature bill that ironically bears his name.
This has meant at least two things with regard to the use of legislative time. First, this time has been a sheer waste for the citizenry. For nine months, instead of addressing the fixes that are needed in the Affordable Care Act, all Congress did was introduce bills that took health care away from more and more people. This time could have been better spent on bipartisan efforts to strengthen the Affordable Care Act and address other complex issues facing the country such as raising the minimum wage and working for wage equity or addressing the racism in the criminal justice system among other areas of society.
People have lived in fear of losing their health insurance. One-sixth of the nation’s economy is at stake. And tens of thousands are at risk for early death if one of the Republican health care bills was ever signed into law. Thus, secondarily, this use of legislative time to produce harmful bills has resulted in an unprecedented resistance movement against these harmful policies. The public’s time has been consumed with efforts to stop these bills from being passed with dozens and dozens of campaigns, millions of phone calls, letters, petition signatures, and the like. Instead of being on the defense, the public’s time for public policy initiatives too could have been used for things more constructive such as figuring out how to welcome the immigrant neighbor or better care for the vulnerable in their communities.
If the Republicans in Congress want to root out waste, fraud, and abuse, in government and government spending, they can start with the time spent on their immoral policies that fail to serve the common good.
The opportunity cost of Trumpcare bills on the legislative calendar and the American public is beyond measure.
Republicans in Congress routinely bemoan waste, fraud, and abuse in government spending, so when will they stop wasting legislative time and abusing the people with policies that are a fraud on the common good?