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Jewish World Review March 16, 2001 / 20 Adar, 5761

James Lileks

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Consumer Reports

The GOP's inexplicable
desire to fold -- "BIPARTISANSHIP is dead," said Dick Gephardt, slowly lowering the body to the floor. He wiped off the knife, replaced it in his pocket, and went on to explain that Bush's mad dash for ruinous tax cuts had chopped down the tender shoots of comity and love. This definition of "bipartisanship," of course, is when the Republicans move towards the Democrats.

Unfortunately, that's also the Republican notion of bipartisanship.

The GOP's inexplicable desire to fold was on display this week, as clay-footed Senators quailed at the details of the Bush tax cut. Makes you think that the only reason the GOP support the second amendment is to ensure they'll always be able to shoot themselves in the foot.

Perhaps GOP timidity is best for us all. This Bush tax plan does smack of rash mad imprudence, when you think about it. It needs to be phased in slower. Enough of this irresponsible talk of a ten-year phase-in; why, people get windburn just contemplating such breakneck speed. And it must to be pegged to the surpluses. No surplus, no tax relief. We simply cannot put the needs of taxpaying Americans ahead of the needs of tax-levying government. Sure, some people yearn for a topsy-turvy, upside-down, land-where-men-walk-on-their-hands world where government budgets are cut before family budgets. But such talk breeds McVeighs, you know. Let's not go there.

No, let's go to Santana High School, where we learn a valuable lesson about the lean state of the federal budget. Santana, you'll recall, was thed scene of a recent school shooting. As news reports detailed the story of the lonely twisted shooter, we learned the cause of his eruption: he'd been bullied. Kids called him names. Bullies - swaggering, sneering meatbrains who delighted in taunting the geeks of the world - called him names, made threats. And no doubt you're asking: why didn't the federal government DO something?

It's still alive!

They did. ran an AP story with a headline that sums up precisely the state of modern American political culture. "Santana got federal help to deal with bullying." How? AWACS planes located the bullies as they huddled on a corner for a smoke, and a carrier group sent in Tomahawks to blow them into lunchmeat? No. Three years before the shooting, the school applied for a grant from the Justice Department. Attorney General John Ashcroft said the school wanted help in dealing with an "onerous culture of bullying." The school got $137,000 to study the bully problem. Among the bright ideas that money produced: students were encouraged to report incidents of bullying.

Okay, that's $4.00 in photocopying charges; what did the rest of the money accomplish? Not much, apparently: the shooter never came to report the bullying. Students who witnessed the bullying never reported it, either.

In the world of Washington, this means that the program is obviously underfunded.

Really. Obviously, the program is a good idea - what, are you opposed to students reporting bullies? Since it's a good idea, it must be funded. Since current funding levels have achieved nothing, then funding must be increased - and every year's failure to achieve the goal will only be proof of underfunding. That's the way things work. No Republican senator wants the Washington Post to ask him why he voted to eliminate federal funding to clamp down on bullies - is he in favor of school shootings, then?

Some might say that this grant is just a tiny peek into a vast and glittering storehouse of wasted treasure. Some might say that the very notion of a federal program to eliminate high-school taunting is proof that the government can stand to slim down. Lose an ounce or a pound. Or a few thousand tons. Some, like Ashcroft himself, might note that solving some of our problems "takes more than what the government can do." But they wouldn't be acting in the spirit of bipartisanship. Only an extremist would want to cut the program and give the money back to parents. Not, let's increase anti-bully efforts at twice the rate of inflation instead of four times. That's a sensible compromise.

Look - bipartisanship is moving! It's alive!

Ahh . . . guess not. Gephardt was kicking the body again.

JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


02/23/01: Will the Jeb Bush administration attack Saddam in 2011?
02/09/01: In search of the the first ashtray thrown by a member of the First Family
02/06/01: Can you say 'Ayatollah Bush'?
01/24/01: The new Executive Orders
01/22/01: Hey, Dubya: Wanna save Ashcroft? Teach him to rap!
01/09/01: Bubba gets his last licks
01/05/01: The low-down on the coming recession (What those snooty economists won't tell you)
12/23/00: Memo to Dubya: Wanna show who is boss? Nuke 'em!
12/06/00: The Count of Carthage
At the Sore/Loserman Transition HQ
12/01/00: The Count of Carthage
11/28/00: Clinton knows history isn't written by the victors anymore
11/17/00: Chad's the word
11/08/00: The strangest political night
11/07/00: Get ready to return to the Dark Ages

© 2000, James Lileks