This story in Vanity Fair absolutely flabbergasted me when it popped up in my RSS feed this morning. If progressives have developed such an aversion to the United States Constitution that they will unashamedly argue that reading it in the House today will cost too much money, they have utterly surrendered the issue entirely. At this point, we can now safely question whether progressives have any regard for the Constitution at all (via memeorandum).

As we reported this morning, House Republicans will kick-start the 112th Congress tomorrow with a spirited recitation of the Constitution, a document whose recent relevance is due largely to the ideological and sartorial interests of the Tea Party. It’s an opening act designed to herald the arrival of a new season of checks, balances, and financial cutbacks. As Politico’s nocturnal prophet Mike Allen reported, House Republicans plan to reduce Congress’s budget by $32.5 million—a savings reaped from cutting “the amount authorized for salaries and expenses of Member, committee, and leadership offices in 2011 and 2012.”

It would seem that in an era of Fiscal Responsibility™, a performative rendition of the Constitution might have been one such eliminated endeavor.

The magazine then goes on to quote their in-house “expert on Congressional wastefulness” who says that today’s reading will “conservatively” cost $1.1 million dollars. He gets that from calculating how much it will cost to pay everyone to be there today, including members of Congress and their staffs, and for operational costs like running the heaters (because when the House isn’t in session, they turn the heat off completely, don’t you know!).

Whether or not this “expert” is correct (and he’s not), the point is utterly ridiculous even by Vanity Fair standards. Ed Morrissey heaped the appropriate amount of ridicule on the magazine and its “expert”, but this bit is especially biting.

How do VF and Keating reach their conclusions?  They take the cost-per-minute of the House being in session, complete apparently to the cost of cleaning staffs, and apply that to the time needed to read the Constitution.  Of course, this is simply bunk.  The House did not come to session to read the Constitution, so those fixed costs — including salaries — would have been spent already regardless of whatever gets said on the floor. The cost doesn’t come from the reading; it comes from the existence of Congress itself.

There isn’t even any opportunity cost involved, since the reading of the Constitution won’t prevent any other business from being conducted.  It will take much less time to read the Constitution than to, say, name post offices and hear debate over whether to designate February as National Toothpick Month, complete with testimonials to the toothpick industry and how it contributed to the greatness of America by removing the remains of porkchops from the teeth of red-blooded Americans.

Of course Vanity Fair doesn’t care how much it costs to read the Constitution. If anyone there cared about the cost of government they’d be Tea Partiers, and that silly little blog post would never have seen the light of day. That progressives are reduced to such a spectacular shark-jump says a lot more about their desperate desire for “because I said so” government than it does the Constitution or the Republican Party.

UPDATE: If you want to read a serious post about the Constitution and its limits on the power of our federal government, you should start with this Roger Pilon piece at Cato.

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One Response to “Thanks to The Constitution, The Progressives of Vanity Fair Have Suddenly Discovered Fiscal Discipline”

  1. scutfargus says:

    The previous Congress over-spent about $3 trillion over a period of 2 years. Let's say they worked 150 days in a year, 6 hour days. That works out to about $5 billion/3 hours (the time spent reading the constitution). So, a $1.1 million price tag for reading the constitution seems quite cheap by comparison.

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