Paul Jacob

The photo in question — of Byrd and his Shih Tzu, Baby — really says more about the sorry state of the media, specifically the Washington Post, than it does about Byrd. The Post is fiddling with front page dog stories while the people of our fair land are burning mad about economic collapse, entrenched corruption and environmental disasters.

But let’s move past the merely symbolic, to address more consequential and ominous examples.

The $23 billion education bailout proposed by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is, well, educational. The goal of the bailout is to prevent layoffs of school personnel, including teachers. If estimates are to be believed — and they’re not — somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000 school workers nationally could lose their jobs.

Give or take 200,000.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan declares, “This is a real emergency. What we’re trying to avert is an education catastrophe.” Of course, he uses the term “real” to distinguish this from the pretend emergencies we’re routinely fed.

Sen. Harkin’s bill has been held up, however, on the grounds it would further balloon already unsustainable deficits and debt. To which the Senator argues: “How can you argue on the one hand that it’s okay for kids to borrow to go to college, but it’s not all right to borrow to make sure there’s a college for them to go to? That there are teachers in our high schools and grade schools to prepare these kids for the future? It seems to me if there’s one legitimate area where we can borrow from the future, it’s in education.”

But I for one argue that any “kid” already $13 trillion in debt should not seek to top it off with a student loan.

And I wonder, if indeed this is a “catastrophe,” why Mr. Harkin, the Democratic Congress, Secretary Duncan and the Obama Administration have not been able to find $23 billion in savings out of a $3.8 trillion 2011 budget (roughly half a percent) to “save” education without further deficit spending.

Of course, this $23 billion in extra spending isn’t just a one-time matter, either. As Katherine Mangu-Ward astutely observed months ago on Reason’s Hit-and-Run blog, “Teachers aren’t like whales. They don’t stay saved. You have to keep saving them over and over again. And when Harkin’s billions run out, we’ll be right back where we started.”

We see barrels of unreality daily flooding to the surface regarding the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. (With all the myriad finger-pointing, too bad it isn’t as simple as filling a hole in a dyke.) One big whopper was President Obama’s statement during his prime time TV address this past week that he approved new offshore drilling (just weeks before the oil rig exploded) “under the assurance that it would be absolutely safe.”

Byron York of the Washington Examiner actually took the trouble to ask various top-ranking Administration officials where the President got such unreal advice. Most simply did not respond to his queries.

The oil spill is the fault of BP. But the mystique of Mr. Obama as a brilliant Mr. Fix-It has been shown to be fantasy.

Last, but not least, is the recent developments concerning the Disclose Act, a measure to re-regulate campaign spending in congressional campaigns (read: silence critics) in the aftermath of the Citizens United decision. The entire bill is an unconstitutional injury to of our First Amendment right to freely criticize our government and officials in government.

But adding insult upon injury, the bill was amended to exempt some of the biggest political players — the National Rifle Association and big labor, to name two. Seems the sponsors wanted to buy off the support of powerful groups they complain might be trying to buy them. The irony is interesting, though disgusting.

No longer can there be even a pretense that congressional campaign regulators are earnestly, if unconstitutionally, trying to “even the playing field.”

Never mind that our country may be going to the dogs. Instead, look at Sen. Byrd’s cute little Shih Tzu.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.