House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi once said of the Obamacare bill, “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” Although that quotation has been recited tirelessly to “prove” that even Congress didn’t know what was in the bill, in context Pelosi was simply stating that Americans would understand all of the provisions only after they began to experience them for themselves.
By itself that was a reasonable statement; it is the case with any massive legislation. If the bill were strictly about implementing a new health care system I would leave it to others to debate its merits or lack thereof.
Legislation these days, however, is rarely so focused. New taxes and regulations are routinely buried deeply within volumes of incomprehensible legalese, beyond the reach of the average citizen.
One such provision of Obamacare came to light very early on and was the first part of the act to be repealed. The provision required businesses to file IRS 1099s on every expense for goods and services in excess of $600, which of course meant the forms also had to be sent to the supplier. The intent of the provision was to plug a hole through which sizable earnings of independent contractors were slipping.
Always a pillar of the American economy, freelancing has spiked as tradesmen and professionals alike chose self-employment over support when they found themselves out of work. Without them, significant income taxes, sales taxes, and Social Security revenues would have been lost. Yet being required to fill out and mail what could amount to hundreds of forms would break already marginal, but completely above-board, operations.
Whenever regulations are imposed on a targeted group, little thought is paid to their impact on the majority of non-offenders within that group. The effect ripples throughout the economy and the cost soon outweighs the gains.
This particular provision drew a lot of attention and subsequently was repealed. We are extremely fortunate that the Internet has created an army of watchdogs that collectively wade through the quagmire and report on what they find.
None-the-less, knowing what lurks within a bill should not be withheld from the public until after the fact. An indexed plain-English version of every bill could easily be published online. The diligent would be forearmed; the rest would have no recourse.