oversight, noun /ˈoʊ.vɚ.saɪt/
- a mistake caused by a failure to notice or do something
- systems or actions to control an activity and make sure that it is done correctly and legally
Why do record numbers of poll respondents see America on the wrong track? Perhaps because Congress institutionalizes all too much of the Definition (1) variety of “oversight” – and little, if any, of Definition (2).
Exhibit A: The $1.65 trillion omnibus(t) appropriations bill olé-ed through in the closing hours of the 117th Congress, which sustains the legislative branch’s decades-long “failure” to take notice of its own spending process. The 4,155-page Leviathan, stuffed like a Christmas goose not only with 7,500 earmarks totaling $16 billion but also with stealth substantive statutory changes, represents the norm, not the exception.
Going back more than a decade, such “consolidated appropriations bills” have wrapped up into a single, impenetrable package the annual funding for departments and agencies that is supposed to be appropriated across 12 individual bills required by the 1974 Budget Act. The last time all those bills were actually passed on time? Try fiscal year 1997.
Particularly galling this go-round, however, was that for the first time ever, the lockdown of a full fiscal-year’s outlays occurred in a lame-duck session with one legislative chamber – the House – days away from a changeover in control. Eighteen Republican senators helped pushed across the Democrats’ spendapalooza, understandably incensing members of the newly elected House GOP majority, deprived of the opportunity to instill even a modicum of fiscal discipline.
Yet a cadre of Freedom Caucus members apparently heeded the age-old political advice: don’t get mad, get even. The conservatives insisted they would actively oppose any legislation advanced by any of the returning turncoat senators. Current House GOP leader and, as of this writing, speaker candidate Kevin McCarthy endorsed the view, stating that these senators’ bills “will be dead on arrival in the House.”
That’s one brand of payback, for sure. But here’s an even better one: match the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body’s Definition (1) oversight – carelessly, and callously, ignoring the recently expressed will of American voters – with an aggressive two-step program of Definition (2) oversight.
First, make the new House leadership’s highest order of business to draft and pass all 12 appropriations bills following the “regular order,” including hearings, public markups, and subcommittee, full committee and floor votes. And put the Senate “uniparty” – and the American people – on nine months’ notice that failure on the upper chamber’s part to do the same will result in an epic shutdown showdown that, having been forewarned for three quarters, cannot credibly be pinned on the GOP.
Step Two: In so doing, involve the entire Republican Conference, every committee and subcommittee, and every staffer in a concerted, coordinated crash project to alert the public to each line of spending in the omnibus – and by extension, the Senate GOP’s infamy in abetting it. Every earmark for a local project that has no business being funded out of Washington. Many a head-shaking expenditure on politically correct yet ridiculous research.
Hundreds of millions to facilitate the invasion of our homeland by, and the sustenance of, migrants brazenly breaking our immigration laws. Volumes of propaganda used to advance the perverse LGBTQ+-whatever agenda. Floods of foreign aid and military support for American-scorning “allies,” and in many cases, even enemies, especially assistance doled out to promote values contrary to the host country’s – and our own.
Every greenback of taxpayers’ hard-earned money, and debt being piled on their great-grandchildren, handed out in ways that create and sustain dependency, produce health care market distortions and subpar outcomes, or finance opioids for screen-captive working-age men who have dropped out of the labor force. Every red cent of corporate welfare and crony-capitalist “green” subsidies being funneled into costly, counter-productive renewables production in China as it constructs carbon-belching coal plants to manufacture them.
Every disbursement for tyrannical tax collectors, administrative overlords, and bureaucratic busybodies plaguing small businesses and everyday citizens. And of course, each and every shekel shelled out to propagate prevarications, throttle truth, and persecute patriots.
As part of that process, set in motion a continuous flow of heretofore unaccountable agency heads, entrenched swamp creatures, and deep-state minions to the Hill to defend all that spending: specifically, channeling Mitch Daniels to require explanations of programmatic purposes and objectives and “link funding to results.”
Make them justify why any given dollar for any given program creates more bang than that same buck kept in the hands of citizens and business owners to invest in their own aspirations. And why the $80 billion in new IRS funding won’t be directed to improving the agency’s sorry customer service rather than harassing harried households.
Meanwhile, let loose a 24/7 tweet storm that makes Hurricane Ian look like a balmy zephyr, along with a flood of factoids and press releases that keep the slop of waste and corruption continuously seeping from the muck at the top of the news cycle.
Sunlight, they say, is the best disinfectant. And true, Definition (2) oversight is the best way to let the sunshine in to clean up the swamp.
Bob Maistros is a messaging and communications strategist, crisis specialist, and former political speechwriter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.