The Dog-and-Pony Show Known as a Congressional Hearing

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Ryan’s post on Stephen Colbert’s appearance before a congressional committee is quite instructive and accurate. I only would like to add that the vast, vast majority of these hearings are nothing more than political theater, a veritable dog-and-pony show.

The last time that any supposed new information was revealed in a congressional hearing was July 16, 1973, when White House Aide Alexander Butterfield told the Watergate committee that the White House had an internal taping system. (And I suppose even THAT revelation was a sham.) No, these hearings don’t exist to inform anyone of anything important; instead, they exist to make members of Congress Look Really Important As They Go About The People’s Business.

Indeed, the thing to keep in mind here is that since the Progressive Era, Congress has pretty much (illegally) transferred its lawmaking powers to the executive branch. When Congress passes a “law,” the document itself is long, sloppy, self-contradictory, and not in any shape to be implemented. The REAL lawmaking process occurs when the various bureaucracies and regulatory agencies write the regulations (which have force of law) as an interpretation of the junk that Congress has given them.

Thus, the congressional hearings really have little effect on actual lawmaking. Instead, they are activities that exist for the media and for members of Congress to employ in order to make the people back home think that their “representatives” are Really Important People instead of the frauds that they are.

6:18 am on September 25, 2010