Continuing To Fiddle While Rome Burns

Last week I wrote about the FDA's big announcement of its new labeling requirements for sun tan lotion. It was clearly an urgent priority worth whatever months and millions devoted, at this time when every penny of government spending that can be cut or delayed should be.

On the heels of that vital accomplishment, comes the asinine applying of photographs of cancer-riddled, suffering victims to cigarette packages. Some in the media gently questioned whether such drama would actually discourage smokers, but I heard no one ask the more profound question: what in the devil are we doing expending dollars we must borrow from China and add to the debt on this? Now?

Trying to discourage smoking by upping the ante from mere warnings in big type that tell of likely death to graphic, disgusting photographs is an interesting subject, worthy of debate at some other time.

I'd quickly mention that a child dies in a swimming pool every five days, so the FDA might want to hustle up some photos of blue-faced young 'uns in open caskets to affix to every pool and inflatable beach ball sold and put up as billboards at every public swimming pool. It's also fair to point out the hypocrisy in all this: state and federal governments can't live without all the tax revenue from cigarettes, so honest prohibition is out, yet we're spending money trying to scare people into not using the same product that feeds the government taxes - and the industry that feeds politicians campaign contributions. If this product is as deadly as government claims, isn't government guilty of criminal conspiracy, profiting from its sale and distribution? Knowingly sharing in profits from poison?

But none of this warrants discussion, let alone investment of government resources (not that there are any, so it's investment via debt) - now. We can afford handling only the most dire, urgent responsibilities of government. Yet, at every turn we see unaffordable adventurism - whether opening new wars with their attendant costs in blood and treasure, trying yet another doomed out-pouring of money to bail out home "owners" in loans they can't afford, or seeing if we can scare smokers with photos of ill and dead people. The question to be put relentlessly to everyone in Washington attached to any of these things is: what part of broke don't you understand?

They just can't bear to slash and shrink and pull back spending to be less than revenue, with zero additional borrowing. Instead they yammer on about "investing." But a broke and bankrupt person cannot and does not invest - and certainly not in wild-hair ideas and schemes far beyond the vital necessities of life. Somehow we must make our government stop behaving as if it can 'invest' until it actually has surpluses to invest, or we'll all be broke and bankrupt. I want to see the media dragging people like the nitwits at the FDA responsible for the ugly pictures scheme in front of us and demanding to know what it cost and asking them: given that we are broke and have not one cent of that money and had to borrow it from China, do you really believe this needed done now? I want to see the media dragging each spender, each legislator and the president before their cameras and making them defend each expenditure with that question. Line item by line item by line item.

In Cleveland, a fresh crop of police academy grads was laid off an hour after the graduation ceremony. The city is cutting way back on police manpower, ostensibly because the mean and heartless Republican governor has cut money flowing to the city, so cops can't be paid.

A local media personality, Mike Trivisano, on WTAM-AM radio poured through the city budget, item by item by item, and found landscape architect supervisors and public recreation center assistant managers and even pollution control radio dispatchers - and rightly questioned which were more important to the vital safety of the city's residents, the folks in these positions or police? Further, he noted that the city, despite precipitous drop in population, has not reduced the number of city councilmen drawing nice salaries. Cleveland has 19. Detroit has only 9. Cincinnati has, I think, 8 or 9. Why does Cleveland need 19? Which do you think more vital in performing the fundamental responsibilities of government to taxpayers, notably public safety - councilmen or cops? The mayor refused to come onto Trivisano's radio program to discuss this. To my knowledge, no other media outlets have taken up the crusade.

Hey, why don't we get this Trivisano guy to do this with the federal budget? What? We don't have a federal budget? Haven't had one for 700 or so days? Seems at odds with Obama's promise of transparency.

This is microcosm of all that is wrong-headed and corrupt, at city, state and federal government levels: continuing to spend money that does not exist on non-essential, non-vital agencies, programs, schemes and people, while cutting in ways that scare and intimidate and bully voters. To give them more money, to tolerate a dime's increase in taxes, as long as they play this power game - no.