The House Government Reform Committee's steroid hearings yesterday were interesting on several levels. Congress has so much power, of course, (or has arrogated to itself so much power) that anything it does is inherently important. Then, adding celebrities to the mix always makes for an interesting situation. Finally, the possible corruption of the national pastime (despite the decreasing popularity of the sport) is a cultural tide movement.
I'm still not convinced, by any stretch of the imagination, that legislative action by the federal government is needed or appropriate in this matter. If the use of steroids is indeed a problem, state laws should certainly be able to handle it. However, performing an investigation to shine light on the problem is certainly an appropriate activity of Congress.
The reason given by the committee members as to why this particular committee was investigating the matter, however, is rather chilling. In short, they have noted that this committee is empowered to investigate anything it chooses to look into. Equipped with subpoena power, this makes the GROC into a central investigative tribunal for the federal government. Anyone who falls afoul of the interests of the Congress—which means anyone who falls afoul of popular opinion, as baseball's steroid users have obviously done—might be hauled before Congress and forced to testify in a nationally televised fishing expedition, with or without a grant of immunity from prosecution on either the federal or state level.
This is a nation that once prided itself on its respect for personal freedom, yet throughout the past half-century, since the rise of television, our chief legislative body has increasingly engaged in Communist-style show trials.