Ken Connor

"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty." --Thomas Jefferson

The principle of "informed consent" is well established in American law and life. Whether preparing to undergo surgery or take out a loan, consumers have a right to full disclosure of the risks and consequences associated with the transaction. Only after the consumer has reviewed such information and been informed of the relevant facts can he be deemed to have given his consent to proceed.

Imagine, then, going to the hospital for major surgery, only to be told by your doctor that you are not smart enough to understand the implications of your operation, and that even if you were, he doesn't want to take the time to explain them to you before you go under the knife. Or suppose you asked your local car dealer for a test drive of the vehicle you were considering purchasing before you actually signed on the bottom line and he refused, accusing you of stalling and denying you an opportunity to test the merchandise before you bought it. Only a fool would continue under such circumstances.

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Nevertheless, when it comes to the business of the American people transacted by our representatives on Capitol Hill, the public is embracing just this kind of treatment. For years, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have trampled on the principle of transparency by ramming legislation through the Congress without giving the American people time to read it. And if certain lawmakers have their way, that's exactly what will happen with the current health care reform effort.

Last week, Republicans in both houses of Congress attempted to shed some much needed light on the legislative process at a crucial time in our nation's history. An amendment quickly defeated in the Senate Finance Committee would have required the health care bill to be fully written, evaluated by the Congressional Budget office, and posted on the Internet for a minimum of 72 hours before lawmakers could cast their votes. A similar proposal introduced in the House of Representatives would require a 72 hour window for public review of all legislation being considered for passage.

Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.