Herman Cain has an exciting vision for the future, everybody! See, he's so sick and tired of Congress passing long bills that take more than 10 minutes to read. So he's going to do away with all of that, and as president, he's only going to sign bills that are three pages long. Your free-ride days of getting adequately funded through appropriations bills are over, U.S. military!
Per Marie Diamond, here's what Cain told the audience at the Family Leader Presidential Lecture Series in Pella, Iowa:
CAIN: Engage the people. Don’t try to pass a 2,700 page bill — and even they didn’t read it! You and I didn’t have time to read it. We’re too busy trying to live — send our kids to school. That’s why I am only going to allow small bills — three pages. You’ll have time to read that one over the dinner table. What does Herman Cain, President Cain talking about in this particular bill?
Indeed, 2,700 pages sure seems daunting, until you realize that the typesetting technique used by the Congres features "a significant amount of whitespace including non-trivial space between lines, large headers and margins, an embedded table of contents, and large font," as Computational Legal Studies points out. You know, so that you ancient legislators have a fighting chance of being able to read these bills.
CLS analyzed the health care reform bill back in Nov. 2009, and found that it essentially contained 234,812 words that "impact[ed] substantive law." That's pretty long, of course. But it's shorter than the popular novel "Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix" -- a book that small children read.
As Diamond points out, a three-page restriction would have prevented many important measures from being enacted.
The vast majority of substantive bills passed by Congress are longer than three pages. Under this bright-line rule, Cain wouldn’t have signed such landmark pieces of legislation as the Civil Rights Act, the Social Security Act, or the PATRIOT Act. In fact, he wouldn’t have even been able to sign the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, which ran 114 and 18 pages, respectively.
Cain was a big supporter of the Troubled Asset Relief Program's bank bailouts back in the day, so it's a real pity that he's suddenly switched positions on that issue, because the original TARP bill is one of the few pieces of legislation I can recall that came in under three pages.
Of course, one of the things that Cain says he supports is the enactment of the Fair Tax. But now, he'll be unable to sign it into law, because that piece of legislation is 131-pages long. (Though maybe it can be condensed to a single page containing this graph showing the way it will jack up taxes on everyone besides people making $200,000 a year and a note written in Sharpie that reads: "WE DO THIS NOW. SIGN HERE: _____________"