In Defense of “Sandwich Making”



Mark Harkins | April 22, 2015

I love Jon Stewart and believe the information that the Daily Show puts out, while satirical, is often more accurate than the main stream media.  That said, his opening piece on Monday, April 20th, where he castigates Congress for getting excited about legislating, is set on the wrong premise.

Stewart’s main premise comes out about three minutes into the segment. “The people we picked to be legislators legislated something.  What are we supposed to throw them a party for that?” Actually, in most cases we probably should.  The point that is missed is we don’t elect members of Congress to legislate. We elect members to stop legislation just as much as we elect them to legislate. Congress is as much, if not more, a representative body rather than a lawmaking body

The Founding Fathers set up the Constitution in a way to make it very difficult to enact laws and to allow government to have control over people.  The bill of rights is a list of restrictions on the federal government: do not block speech or religion; do not block the right to bear arms; people are not required to house soldiers; a person cannot be held without charges or forced to testify against oneself; and most importantly, rights not outlined in the Constitution remain with the people.

Let’s look at Stewart’s sandwich example from the point of view of the founding fathers.  In general, they believed people should be allowed to make their own sandwich and that the government (sandwich guy) should not dictate what is in the sandwich.  But if the people believe this is an activity the government should do, they need to do it carefully.

First, Congress’s role is to ensure the resources for the Rueben sandwich are available.  The equivalent to the appropriations process ensures the bread, cheese, and meats are in the deli.

Second, Congress chooses which sandwiches to make, the minimum quality it must achieve, and gives some guidance as to what is in the sandwich – authorizing.  For example, you wouldn’t want a deli making sushi sandwiches if it was making everybody sick. The instructions could be as vague as bread, meat, cheese and sauce or as exacting as rye bread, Swiss cheese and corned beef made in the USA.

This is not a facile task cialis in frankreich.  The House may decide a “grouper” Rueben is healthier and the way to go in today’s world and the Senate may say it must be made with corned beef and sauerkraut.  Which is right is up to the voters ultimately as they may un-elect Members that vote for a sandwich they don’t like.

The House and Senate must meet and iron out these differences as the sandwich maker (the Executive Branch) must have an agreed upon recipe from the Congress (Article 1, Section 7, Presentment Clause).

This is where the sausage is made.  The compromise may decide to leave the answer vague or with a mix of specific and vague depending on the negotiating skills of the members.  If the lead negotiator from the Senate is from an area where they grow rye, he may insist that rye bread be used in all Reuben sandwiches.  In exchange, he may say the sauce can be anything that includes mayonnaise.

Again, the Founding Fathers wanted this to be difficult.  Their thought was if you want a government that could easily make decisions, go to England where the King and Parliament rule.  They were willing to take a little inefficiency to guarantee more robust representation.

And notice how this whole process hasn’t even included the guy making the actual sandwich.  What if the sandwich maker refuses to make sandwiches with Swiss cheese? In our system he would “Veto” the recipe and unless 2/3 of Congress voted to override, they would have to change the proposed recipe to allow, for example, the sandwich maker to make the Reuben with any kind of cheese.  By dividing power so one decides the parameters and someone else actually implements, it makes it that much more difficult to get to any conclusion.

So yes, we should applaud simple tasks such as making sandwiches. The process is flawed and convoluted but that’s what allows the people to have power over the government.  It also leads to a situation where their Reuben may turn into a bologna and cheese on white with yellow mustard.

So yes, let’s celebrate that Congress came to a bipartisan agreement on the Doc Fix, short for, Doc Fix, and let’s all split a Reuben!


Mark Harkins is a Senior Fellow at the Government Affairs Institute

All Posts | @mbh1165

 


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