Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Nobody reads it all

Just one more about the reform bill and then I'll move on.

Those of us who have made our livings writing operating manuals, online help, or even those little bits of paper that come with whatever new gadget you buy, all learnt at the start of our careers that little sentence in the title: "nobody reads it all." As soon as I moved into writing about health care, I discovered that this principle applies to major legislation*. That's why legislators have aides. Everyone in an office reads something and summarises it, then someone else stitches together all the summaries to make an overall summary for the legislator. That is what she or he reads, along with some particularly ripe sections that she or he finds from directions in the summary.

So I noticed, amongst the barrage of hypocrisy thrown at health care reform, the taunt of "have you read it?" Those who threw it knew, of course, the dictum. They believed that their ranting followers did not. A number of people in public life have noticed that many of the people with the loudest voices** have never been involved in political action before; some have never voted before, and it's reasonable to think that many are mostly acquainted with books from the outside. Thus, the puppeteers could be sure that they wouldn't know that none of their legislators have read all of most major pieces of legislation.

Nor is this one all that long as health care legislation goes. At 2400 pages or so, it is a masterpiece of laconic presentation compared with two annual pieces of legislation that run Medicare, and secondarily define the direction of almost all American care for just one year. These documents (one for inpatient care, one for outpatient care) often reach 2000 pages... each; per year: plus a few hundred pages of quarterly amendments. You get my drift.

So the next time a republican shouts "have you read it?" remember that he or she hasn't, either.

* One health care lobbyist I know does read all of those annual pieces of legislation I mentioned, and usually in one long weekend for each, but that's an unusual performance.

**Congress needs a New England Town Moderator to keep the tea bags in line. A few years back a contentious local issue had brought hundreds of similar loudmouths to the local Town Meeting for the first time. They were shocked to learn that they had to wait their turn to speak, stick to the point, sit down when the Moderator told them they were done, and that they could be removed and even arrested if they did not do as they were told.

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