March Madness spills over into politics


For those who think Madness only comes in March (hope your NCAA bracket picks are holding up), I have sad news. Madness crops up any time. However, March seems to lead the pack and I’m not talking basketball. Just for some laughs today, check out a couple of random examples:

• The U.S Senate worked until 5:30 am the other morning and announced it had passed a budget resolution — its first in four years. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called it “one of the Senate’s proudest moments.” Seriously?

Of particular interest to many boat dealers that keep well-stocked accessory and parts departments is that the Senate budget contains an amendment by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., calling for an Internet sales tax. Supporters claim passage would give Main Street merchants a fair chance by eliminating the average 5 to 7 percent advantage e-retailers have over local brick-and-mortar businesses. Seems online shoppers "forget" every April 15 to voluntarily pay their sales taxes. Go figure.

If you believe it would be fair to have an Internet sales tax, remember, it’s March. First, it’s non-binding and that’s the bottom line of the Senate’s budget resolution (gotta make every senator proud). Second, it’s more a publicity stunt than a serious proposal because the resolution stands virtually no chance of getting accepted in the House of Representatives, although it might come up in an expected conference committee or during a series of future committee hearings dealing with appropriations.

Perhaps a situation like this is why Congress is less liked than the lowly cockroach, according to a recent Public Policy Polling survey. Congress is also liked less than root canals, head lice, colonoscopies, carnival workers, traffic jams, used-car salesmen, Washington political pundits and Brussels sprout. It’s can’t be easy to get rated that low, but Congress has done it.

• How about March Madness of another sort? It’s just been revealed that the federal government has now completed 20,000 pages of new rules and regulations to implement the Affordable Care Act that Congress passed three years ago. I suppose one could be proud of such prolific production — that’s 18 pages of regulations per day, with an unknown quantity still to come.

If you feel the need to read the new regs, I suggest you just cover 18 pages per day and you’ll be up to speed just in time for March Madness in 2016. Oh, but there’s exciting news regarding the Affordable Care Act Application for Insurance — it’s only 21 pages long, albeit reportedly more complicated than an IRS tax form and harder to complete than proving Donald Trump’s hair was born in the U.S.

• One more instance of Madness: When Congress passed the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it created a monster even lawmakers can’t oversee. It consolidated 18 laws under the bureau and gave unprecedented powers that evade the checks and balances that apply to most regulatory agencies. Specifically, because the bureau operates within the Federal Reserve System, it falls under virtually no oversight in regulating the six services it has unilaterally decided to regulate: consumer credit, debt collection, consumer reporting, prepaid cards, debt relief, check cashing and related activities.

Moreover, the statute that empowers the bureau is extraordinarily vague, leaving it up to a bureaucratic staff of 1,000 with a $600 million budget to interpret the meaning and write regulations without following any defined standards. In essence, it is defining its own powers. President Obama even appointed its director by "recess appointment," avoiding the Senate confirmation process.

If Dodd-Frank wasn’t first introduced in Congress in March 2010, it should have been because it fits right in with my definition of March Madness. No agency should have such unbridled power. It should be repealed before next March.