kolmapäev, märts 24, 2004


Alright. I'm watching this House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing for work. Don Evans is testifying. Now, this started around 10:20. Evans has to leave at 12:30. There are apparently 57 members of the committee. Every one of them is permitted a 3 minute opening statement and 5 minutes for questions after his testimony.

The obvious end result seems to be that most people aren't going to get to say much. Nearly all of the Republicans waived their openings, thereby getting 8 minutes for questions. But a bunch of the Democrats gave statements attacking Bush's tax cuts. None of this was terribly relevant to what Evans was going to say, a lot of it was just empty rhetoric, some of it was misleading, and it took up much of the first hour of the hearing. The only real important point was when one of them criticized Evans for questioning the patriotism of opponents of free trade, people he dishonestly calls "economic isolationists." Several minutes were wasted when someone proposed skipping the opening statements and there were some objections to that. A couple of Republicans also gave statements, selectively quoting economic statistics that make Bush's policies look good. Nothing surprising. Really nothing worth wasting 3 minutes for.

Then again, Evans' testimony wasn't terribly valuable either.

So the questions start and only a handful of people will have time to ask them. Now, during a hearing, "questions" usually consist of a long statement of opinion, with a short question as an afterthought. Really, not much different from the opening statements. Evans' responses, fittingly, never have much to do with the question. Evans repeatedly attacks Democrats for opposing drilling in ANWR. Around 12, the chairman decides that people who gave opening statements can't ask questions because of time constraints. This leads to several minutes of debate of that point.

And now it's 12:30 and I've got almost nothing worth telling my boss about.

My point is, this is how our government works. Every day. We're paying for them to waste their time debating procedural issues while cabinet members sit patiently in front of them, taking time out from doing their own jobs. This isn't a new insight and it's something I notice every time I have to watch one of these things. It's just, shouldn't we expect better?

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