Friday, February 04, 2005

War Profiteering

This is one of my weekly columns from The Punxsutawney Spirit daily newspaper in Groundhog Central.This is an older piece but it still makes a lot of sense to me.

A politician is a strange and wondrous creature. Consider if our brave volunteer firemen acted like Congress. When your house was burning they would rush to the site, wave their arms, and shout loudly and repeatedly that the building is on fire while you stand there watching your home burn.

The chief and his staff would wait in their cars until a TV news crew showed up to photograph the fire, then they would rush up and join the fire crew.

Someone would propose pouring water on the fire and the rest would yell, "Great, that's what we should do."

But then the guy who wants to be chief next year says, "Wait a minute, we could do this much faster if we had a new fire engine."

Then they fall to squabbling and choose up sides.
One small group wants to just start pumping water on the fire with what they have.

But the rest, some of whom have control of the hoses while others have the keys to the truck, are arguing about the new truck both sides now want.

One side wants to buy a standard fire truck from the dealer located just down the block.

The other side is led by a guy whose brother-in-law owns a tiddlywink factory but wants to start building fire trucks.

The two groups keep grabbing the news crew's microphone while shouting insults at each other.

Eventually, the cameraman turns to the burning building while the reporter interviews you, the homeowner.

Now the chief and wannabe chief get together and decide to buy the new truck from the brother-in-law so they have something to announce to the reporter.

They push the homeowner away from the reporter and step between the camera and the house to tell everyone how, in view of the gravity and urgency of the situation, they have decided to order a new truck with a pump twice as big as any other ever seen.

By now little remains of your house except embers where the local kids and the news van driver are toasting marshmallows.

The next day the chief asks the brother-in-law to design a new truck and get it built quickly. They also promise to double his asking price if he hurries.

He submits a design a few weeks later and everything seems to be on track to put out the house fire, but then some of the firemen start squabbling over what color the engine should be, while others want their relatives' companies to supply a gold-plated steering wheel and some shiny decals.

Blah, blah, blah… I'll let you fill in the rest, but the new truck arrives just in time to give you a ride to the new home you had built.

My apologies to all the heroic, hard-working firepersons everywhere for even mentioning them in the same breath with the lazy, greedy bums we send to Congress.

This past year we've lived in a burning house while Congress debated buying a new fire engine, a.k.a. Homeland Security. Washington plays politics with the safety of our great nation, while being wined and dined (you're not allowed to call it "bribed") by lobbyists. And we're supposed to believe they are taking terrorism seriously.

The Homeland Security bill grew swiftly from a few good ideas to 600 pages of pork and grandmothers from Iowa are still being frisked in airports and arrested for having nail clippers in their purses.
We REALLY need to send some volunteer firemen to Washington.
Copyright 2003, John A. McCormick, Inc.

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