Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Latest from the Obameter, and the meaning of representative government

Back on January 24, KChristieH shared some information.

I don’t think I’ve made 500 promises in my whole lifetime, but apparently that’s about how many promises Barack Obama made before he took office.

The St. Petersburg Times’ is tracking President Obama’s progress toward fulfilling his promises.

As of the January 24 post, Obama had already fulfilled 6 of his promises.

I just checked the Obameter, and here are the latest results:

As you can see, current statistics are as follows:

  • Promise Kept 6

  • Compromise 1

  • Promise Broken 1

  • Stalled 1

  • In the Works 18

  • No Action 483
I don't know if anyone's attempted this before, and obviously such a measure is open to interpretation, but it's fascinating.

Just out of curiosity, I wondered which promise Obama broke.

To reduce bills rushed through Congress and to the president before the public has the opportunity to review them, Obama "will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House website for five days."

So, what happened?

[T]he first bill Obama signed into law as president -- the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act -- got no such vetting.

In fact, the Congressional Record shows that the law was passed in the Senate on Jan. 22, 2009, passed in the House on Jan. 27, and signed by the president on Jan. 29. So only two days passed between the bill's final passage and the signing.

The legislation was not posted to the White House Web site for comment in any way that we could find....

Obama signed the measure at 10:20 a.m. About two hours later, the White House posted the bill on its Web site with a link that asks people to submit comments. But the bill was already signed at that point.

The whole issue gets into the tension between a republic and a democracy. As political students know, we are not a democracy, since in a political sense the term implies that all people are involved in making every decision. In a republic, people are appointed to make the decisions that need to be made. Specifically, in my case I'm represented by Joe Baca in the House of Representatives, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer in the Senate, and Barack Obama in the White House. (For brevity's sake, I'll refrain from further commment on my representatives.) So when we get the need to pass something like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Baca, Feinstein, Boxer, and Obama can take care of this for me.

Citizen review of legislation can occur at various parts of the process, but the idea of reviewing legislation after the legislative branch has passed it, but before the executive branch has signed it, is definitely a novel idea.

Perhaps when Obama found himself in the Oval Office, he determined that citizen review of passed legislation was silly, and decided to can the idea.

Even if it meant that he broke a promise.

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