Thursday, August 24, 2006

Does government stupidity know any bounds?

By John Stossel

These are tough days for political satirists. Any satire about government boondoggles is soon upstaged by an actual government program that's more inane than anything comedians could invent. After the 9/11 attacks, Congress passed a compassionate piece of legislation called the Supplemental Terrorist Relief Act. It was to give low-interest loans to small businesses disrupted by the attacks, allowing them to rebuild. The loans were supposed to help hotels, retailers, and small service businesses in lower Manhattan.

But, as usual, the government passed your money out everywhere. Terrorist Relief Act loans went to Dunkin' Donuts shops in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Vermont, and Ohio. The manager of the Essex Junction, Vt., Dunkin' Donuts defended his loan, saying 9/11 affected his business. "Instead of getting probably a large coffee and a couple of doughnuts," Tony Silva said, his customers got "a small coffee and a doughnut."

The Patriot Act was supposed to provide federal funding to states to equip the fire, police, and EMS officers who serve at the front lines of a terrorist attack. But the congressmen who wrote the law apparently believed that patriotism starts at home. Money was allocated under a complicated formula where each state, regardless of its size or location, got an equal slice of the pie before risk was even considered.

One result is that the police and fire departments in Casper, Wyo., (population 49,644), can talk to one another, and to their hospitals and EMS units, on a brand-new communications system. New York City (population 8,000,000) is still waiting for a similar system. Colchester, Vt., got $58,000 for a rescue vehicle capable of boring through concrete to search for victims in collapsed buildings. Colchester has a population of 18,000 souls and a severe shortage of big buildings.

It gets worse. Government health programs require states to pay for men's erections. I'm all for men having good sex lives, but why would government subsidize that?

Because our bloated government just cannot stop vomiting out the money. For years Medicaid has been spending millions of dollars on Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs. The Clinton administration told states they had to pay, because the law requires that Medicaid pay for any FDA-approved drug deemed medically necessary. Bush administration officials kept the policy. They wouldn't agree to a television interview about it.

Doctors are so addicted to government funding that even insane and embarrassing subsidies are passionately defended. "Erectile dysfunction is not fun, it's a disease," said Dr. Steven Lamb, who appears often on ABC. "It needs to be treated. It needs to be paid for."

I gave him a hard time about it. "Sex is a government entitlement now? Do you ever think about budgeting? What the taxpayer pays?"

"What we're trained in is to be your advocate," he said. "I do not take costs into account."

Of course not. Government-funded medical programs invite doctors to declare endless "needs" -- knowing someone else will bear the cost.

Eventually there was outrage. Sadly, not merely because people woke up and realized that government shouldn't fund Viagra. No, only when money was needed for Hurricane Katrina relief and it was revealed that the government was giving Viagra to child molesters did Congress allow Medicare and Medicaid to stop paying for erections. Congress allowed states to stop. But some states still pay.

Will Rogers once said, "Thank goodness we don't get all the government we pay for."

I say we still get, and pay for, more than enough.

No comments: