There's a naked guy wearing a barrel. There's another guy water skiing. There's a big boat. What's not to love about the new cartoon that House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., narrates to promote his wonky new waterways bill. Even its title—the Water Resources Reform and Development Act—invokes yawns, but the committee has created a slick new video about its essential parts, showing the legislative proposal literally being drawn up. Think of the old Warner Brothers cartoon of a sadistic artist, who turns out to be Bugs Bunny, sketching Daffy Duck. Or the UPS whiteboard ads. Even House Speaker John Boehner promoted it.
"This is a bill that is essential to our everyday life," Shuster, says in the video, over a sketch of a guy in his pajamas reading the newspaper. Shuster then explains that all the stuff this guy uses in his kitchen comes from ports and waterways that, without an update in the law, could be stuck in those ports or in overseas warehouses. "Ding!" The guy's bowl of cereal disappears. "Ding! The fridge and stove disappear. "Ding!" He's suddenly wearing a barrel. "Our ports and waterways are essential to our way of life," Shuster says. "So essential, we sometimes take them for granted." Not with this slick presentation.
In all seriousness, this bill is a big deal for transportation and for the broader legislative process. It has bipartisan support, which is no small feat considering that funding is always a point of contention between Republicans and Democrats these days. And it has sophisticated answers to a lot of the complaints about infrastructure and government. For example, it sets hard deadlines on the time and cost of studies for projects. Imagine that. An actual budget and timeline for a project. It also makes it easier for private companies to contribute their own funds to move projects along. Again, what's not to like?
The video, hopefully, will help people outside of Washington understand what people inside of Washington do all day. The production is not likely to go viral—like, say, a twerking video—but may at least serve as a sort of modern Schoolhouse Rock.
What do you think of the video? Is this a good way to advertise legislation? Does it explain the issue in the right ways? Or is it a waste of money? What about the bill itself? Are hard deadlines and budgets for engineering studies a good idea? What are the potential problems, if any? Can some of the streamlining ideas in this bill be duplicated for other transportation legislation? And should bill introductions always include cartoons?