Rylie F. California

Misleading Legislative Nomenclature

Legislature has begun to fall to marketing practices and tricks.

To the President of the United States of America,

There are two trends recently emergent in U.S. legislation which I believe deserve your attention. The first is that of manipulative nomenclature, legislature named to emotionally appeal and appear innocuous to the American people. Examples of this can be found in such documents as the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act and H.O.P.E. The second is the inclusion, in passed bills, of legislation not implied by legislative nomenclature or context. My concern with these phenomenons is the possibility that they influence the ability of the U.S. government to accurately evaluate the contents and value of new legislature.

For the first issue stated, I shall consider the examples provided above sufficient, as I believe it to be the lesser of the problems. For the purpose of proving the existence of the second problem, one can look to “earmarks”, bills which fund government departments for discreet purposes beyond the scope of their original budget. These earmarks, as they are not provided by the national budget, must be passed as discreet legislature. As this practice was banned in 2011, they are often hidden in other unrelated bills. According to the 2016 Congressional Pig Book, 2016 earmarking has amounted to $5.1 billion collected. One such earmark is Napa’s infamous wine train bridge, a project which, according to a Press Democrat article “The waste is not in funding Napa project, but in how it happened”, cost $54 million, and created only 12 jobs, earning itself a place in the GOP’s 100 most wasteful stimulus projects. Additionally troubling is that, given the recent earmark moratorium, purposes stated for earmarks are often vague and proposers left unnamed.

The American People, for this poor practice, suffer a government which much constantly make compromises in its execution of the people’s will, allowing in its legislation laws which have no place in their context, but without which it would never be passed, and a government which attempts to make its legislature more”attractive” in its presentation, by giving it names which fail to allude to the meaning of the underlying laws. This is marketing, and it does not belong in politics.

The most promising method of resolving this issue is the activation of the line item veto, which gives the President the ability to selectively veto individual laws in new legislation. This power was granted to the president in 1996, then revoked in 1997. Since then, the executive branch has intermittently attempted to regain this power, but has seen no success. With the line item veto, you could establish the context of a bill, and you could veto entries not pursuant with that context. This power could also be used as leverage against misleading names in legislature. I urge that you continue to fight for this executive authority.