Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Reforming with baby steps

I could never call $35 billion a “small amount of money,” seeing as I still find paying an extra quarter for a Dr. Pepper from a soda machine egregious. For our federal government, however, $35 billion is a drop in the bucket.

On Wednesday, the Senate approved a jobs bill for that amount by a vote of 70-28. The vote was enabled by five Republicans who supported a cloture motion on Monday. The Republicans included a few that you might expect: retiring senators from hard-hit states like Kit Bond of Missouri and George Voinovich of Ohio, who is retiring at the right time because Ohio might decide to outsource his senate seat along with the rest of the state’s jobs.

Another Republican who voted for cloture might be a surprise: Scott Brown, the recently elected senator from Massachusetts, Republican wunderkind and former model. Brown’s decision to side with the Democrats is proof that he isn’t like most politicians. After he campaigned as a “maverick” and “independent thinker,” he actually acted like one instead of just following the party line.

The bipartisan support for this bill, which provides tax cuts for companies that hire the unemployed and will increase funding for transportation projects, is a positive sign after more than a year of deadlock. Neither party has done a good job of reaching out to the other, and this bill is a sign of progress and possibly a blueprint for future reform.

People are more likely to agree to something if they don’t see the full cost from the start. It’s much easier to rationalize spontaneously buying $50 worth of little things at the grocery store than it is to buy one thing for $50.

People are also less likely to buy a big conglomerate of items with one price tag than they are to buy every little thing they need individually. When you get a large package of things, chances are you’re paying for a lot of stuff that you don’t know what it is and don’t need. It’s why boxes of chocolates are good for gifts but not for vending machines. Sometimes all you want is a Snickers.

Our politicians should follow the blueprint of this jobs bill and start pushing reforms individually instead of trying to pass everything at once. Instead of packaging tax cuts for companies to hire people who are unemployed with a thousand other policies nobody cares much about, pass it by itself. When somebody wants to buy an iPod, you don’t package it with a blender and a Commodore 64.

Trillion-dollar, thousand-page bills give voters two issues to consider: sticker shock and concern over what’s hidden. The sticker shock causes concerns over the extreme growth of government, since people immediately see a massive spike in government involvement in the economy. The length of these massive conglomerate bills causes distrust because so many things can be hidden in bills nobody wants to read and nobody can really summarize.

Instead, keep it small, short and simple.

Don’t talk about health care reform packages, talk about things everyone can agree on. If the people want to eliminate coverage denials based on pre-existing conditions, pass a law that says that companies cannot deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Nothing else.

Will a lot of smaller bills eventually add up to the same cost and effect of one big bill? Probably. The difference is that each small bill can come under scrutiny on its own. Each idea is up for debate individually. No good idea is killed because it’s tied to something too big, bad or unpopular.

Maybe reforms to create jobs, fix health care and curb climate change can benefit from being voted on individually. Then perhaps members of Congress will vote on them because they might be good, not because they might be unpopular.

If you’re going to spend like George Bush, Franklin D. Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan, you can’t do it all at once. You have to do it the way they do it: bit by bit, handout by handout, war by war, until a surplus is a record deficit and nobody even noticed.

Jonathan Reed is the opinions editor of The Crimson White. His column runs on Fridays.

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