Sunday, April 24, 2011

A small view of a big picture

"Politics – The art of appearing to be doing something while actually doing nothing." - Author unknown

  After taking the threat of a government shutdown to the limit, the Republican Congress struck a deal with President Obama and the Democratic Senate to keep the government running in return for 38 billion dollars in budget cuts this year. It sounds very impressive, but in the face of a 1.5 trillion dollar deficit what does it mean? It would be the same as a husband and wife squabbling over money when they are spending 100,000 more that they make. Not just this year, but every year as a part of their lifestyle. Since they are married and don’t really want to fight, the couple compromise on their excessive spending, agreeing to cut out eating out one night out a month and save 211 dollars a month and $2,533 a year. They kiss and make up, and everyone is happy. No one is supposed to notice that the couple is still spending more than $97,000 a year than they spend. I’m happy to see the government cutting down on 2% of their deficit (and .67% of all government spending), but not very impressed that both sides were willing to shut down the government to make a point over what amounts to just a few dollars.

  Only the most die-hard of the tea party activists are calling the new budget deal a disappointment. Other members are hailing it as a small victory in a larger war and saying it wouldn’t be responsible to shut down the government as long as incremental progress is being made. I’m not sure how responsible it is to have a deficit of $5,000 for every man, woman, and child in this country for this year alone, but politicians of both parties have contributed to the current state. There have been a lot of tea party protests, but for the most part, the same old politicians are in power doing the same old song and dance about the deficit and very little changes except the rhetoric. And even the 38 billion dollar number could be as little as 352 million dollars. This would be more like my fictional couple not really skipping a dinner a month, but skipping an appetizer at a dinner once a month.

  Childhood obesity has been adopted by Michelle Obama as her signature cause as the First Lady. Part of her campaign has resulted in nutrition standards for school lunches to include less fat and more vegetables. This is all well and good, but I don’t think the meager portions served in school lunches would make a child obese even if the only ingredients were lard and sugar, but there isn’t a lot the first lady can do to keep obese kids from filling up on Little Debbie’s at home so she is trying to use the school system that provides free lunches for 32 million kids to solve the childhood obesity problem. One school in Chicago has gone so far as to prohibit kids from bringing homemade lunches to school.

  I could understand a ban against soda or maybe even chocolate milk, but I’d have to think that most of the lunches someone took the time to pack for a child would be at least as nutritious as anything that could be served up at a school. I’d like to hear the school’s explanation for this rule. Maybe the kids are packing their own brown bags with Doritos and Ho-Ho’s for later resale. I’d hate to have to pay for all the schools to have ‘Twinkie detectors’ next to the metal detectors.

This should solve the childhood obesity epidemic.
It works for cigarettes, doesn't it?...

  Like the budget dealmakers that are patting themselves on the back for cutting 38 billion dollars of a 4 trillion dollar budget, legislating what a child eats at school to combat obesity is missing the point. Kids are not getting obese off of what they are eating in school. The government has historically shown no problem picking winners and losers in health care, auto and bank bailouts, defense contractors, and even a civil uprising in Libya. The government has also shown no problem with attempting to regulate the behavior of its citizens through cigarette taxes, cash for clunkers, rebates for fuel efficient furnaces, gun laws, etc. It would seem a small leap of logic to tax sugar and junk food out of the reach of most Americans and use the extra income to subsidize the purchase of fruits and vegetables. Make the junk food producers put warning labels with pictures of obese people on their products. And no more misleading names like Hostess and Little Debbie. They should be made to call themselves Mostess and Big Debbie instead.

  Americans are not alone in trying to solve big problems with useless gestures. In Afghanistan, some people are in a state of rage and rioting and killing. Why? Because some crackpot pastor in Florida with a church of less than 50 people decided to have a Quran burning. While there is a big debate in the United States over whether even having a discussion on radical Islamism is insulting the religion in general, people in Afghanistan are burning the president in effigy over what some guy in Florida is doing. I guess it doesn’t matter whether their government is being run by a corrupt despot backed by a foreign country or a radical group that will steal their sons to be soldiers and never let their daughters attend school as long as they have someone, somewhere to blame for their troubles.