Jewish World Review June 22, 1999 /8 Tamuz, 5759
from D.C. Comix
For example: Did you know that the House of Representatives has passed a bill that would allow residents of the District of Columbia to pay the lower, in-state tuition at public universities nationwide?
Huh? Yep, the House has approved $17 million of your tax money to subsidize D.C. students, poor things, at the college or university of their choice. The feds would pay the difference between the in-state and out-of-state tuition for these students through a fund controlled by the mayor of Washington; the mayor would be authorized to hand out $10,000 scholarships every year to qualified students.
This ought to be a great comfort to all those hard-pressed families outside Washington saving for their kids' college educations. At least they'll know their withholding helped send some kid to college.
Think of it as a kind of state citizenship for tuition-purposes-only. Welcome, Honorary Residents!
If this idea grows the way most federal programs do, Washington could become one of the great student-exporting capitals of the Western world. And its mayor the most popular figure in town. There are few more effective, and painless, ways to make friends than by handing out other people's money.
The nation's capital has a public university of its own (the University of the District of Columbia), but apparently it's not good enough for Washington's students. Many of them might prefer to attend schools in nearby Virginia or Maryland or, under the terms of this giveaway, maybe in lovely bucolic Arkansas. We've got plenty of universities, at least in name.
Just what business the federal government has handing out honorary citizenship in the state of one's choice isn't clear. But few things are in Washington -- except that Gentle and Overburdened Taxpayer will get stuck with the bill. This amazing proposal, to adapt a line from Dorothy Parker, should not be cast aside lightly; it should be thrown with great force.
The same applies to another brilliant way to use a government fund for purposes other than that for which it was intended. No, it's not Social Security this time. Raiding that fund became an unassailable Washington tradition decades ago. With a punctilious regard for the proprieties, those doing the raiding always left behind a government IOU every time they break open the piggy bank.
And now Bill Clinton has proposed that the states do pretty much the same thing with their unemployment funds, allowing folks to draw unemployment for purposes other than tiding them over between jobs. The president suggests that the states use their unemployment money to pay people to stay home with a new child and, soon enough, doubtless for a whole array of other socially beneficial purposes. The unemployment tax doubtless will continue to increase, even if it's not being used to ease unemployment. Indeed, this scheme could encourage unemployment. Somebody ought to get the annual Doublespeak Award for this idea.
Where there's a lot of money, there's a way for politicians to spend it. At least if it's other people's money. By now that's less amazing than customary.
The amazing stories just never stop coming out of Hollywood East. The other day, it was reported that the next national census won't be recording whether Americans are married or divorced -- statistics that have been routinely gathered since 1890.
At last count, and I mean (ital)last(unital) count, Americans had the highest divorce rate in the world. But here's a nifty way to make the problem go away: Don't report it.
Amazing. So much for this administration's oh-so-deep concern for American families. How formulate family-friendly policies if we're not going to collect the most basic information about American families?
The president does, however, want law-enforcement agencies to start keeping tabs -- by race and sex -- on the people they stop and arrest. Which is just fine by me. It'll provide some statistical basis for the growing suspicion that DWB has become a common crime in this country. (Driving While Black.)
Every conscientious police chief in the country has probably already started keeping a count just to satisfy his own curiosity. What's amazing isn't that the president wants to collect more information, but that he wants only the kind that fits into his socio-political agenda. Information about race is welcome. Information about the American family isn't.
Here's an insight into the American order of priorities as this century winds down: The
national census will continue to report how much our houses are worth, and even how much
money we make, but not whether we're married or divorced. Which shows you what's really
important in America circa
06/17/99: George W.'s first mistake