Budget surplus dilemma
solved: Build bus museum
By DAVE BARRY
March 3, 2001 10 PM
URGENT TAXPAYER BULLETIN: The Federal Budget Surplus Crisis has become so severe that there is now serious talk in Washington of LETTING YOU KEEP SLIGHTLY MORE OF YOUR OWN MONEY.
That is correct: The government has been taking in so much of your money that EVEN CONGRESS is having a hard time spending it all. Not that Congress isn’t trying! In fact, in recent years Congress, faced with the alarming buildup of your money, has come up with some truly creative things to spend it on. My favorite is the Greyhound Bus Museum.
I am not making the Greyhound Bus Museum up. It’s located in Hibbing, Minn. ("Gateway to the Greater Hibbing Area"). As every history student should know, Hibbing is the birthplace of Greyhound, which started as a small bus company and then grew, in historic fashion, into what it is today: a large bus company.
I’m sure that every taxpayer – especially every taxpayer who has ever had to take a long bus trip sitting near the toilet – often thinks: "I hope and pray that at least some tiny portion of the tax money I worked so hard for is used to help finance a bus museum in a city that I will probably never visit unless I happen to be in a plane that crashes there!"
Well, taxpayers, your prayers have been answered, thanks to U.S. Rep. Jim "Jim" Oberstar, who represents (surprise!) Hibbing. Not only did Jim procure $80,000 in federal money for the Greyhound museum, but he also boasted about it in a press release, which I imagine you taxpayers also paid for.
This press release states that the $80,000 came from an act of Congress called the "Transportation Efficiencies Act for the 21st Century." The release further states that, initially, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MN/DOT) "wasn’t certain" that the Greyhound museum "fit the criteria" for the Transportation Efficiencies Act. But as Rep. Oberstar points out, he was "a key architect of the legislation," and thus was "in a better position to help MN/DOT understand how Congress intended the money to be used."
You tell "em, Jim! Don’t let those dopes at MN/DOT prevent you from spending our money as you see fit! If a bus museum doesn’t epitomize the true meaning of Transportation Efficiency for the 21st Century, then I don’t know what does!
Of course, the bus museum is only one of many, many examples of how Congress is working to ease the dangerous buildup of your money in Washington. Thanks to Congress, you’re also paying $1.5 million for sunflower research, and $176,000 for the Reindeer Herders Association. No, really!
Unfortunately, we cannot put a serious dent in our dangerously high budget surplus by spending pathetic amounts like $1.5 million. That is why we should be thankful to leaders such as U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.), who has, over the years, spent more than one billion taxpayer dollars in his relentless ongoing effort to improve West Virginia by covering the entire surface of the state with a gigantic slab of federal concrete (which will be named "The Robert Byrd Concrete Slab").
And let us not forget Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), a man so concerned about our naval preparedness that he demanded that the U.S. Navy be given – for starters – $375 million for a helicopter assault ship to be built in (surprise!) Sen. Lott’s hometown. In pushing this vital naval project through, Sen. Lott had to overcome the resistance of … well, the Navy. That’s right: The Navy did not want this ship. Fortunately, Sen. Lott is not the kind of candypants leader to let some upstart outfit like the U.S. Navy tell him what our naval needs are, any more than Rep. Oberstar is going to let the so-called "Minnesota Department of Transportation" tell HIM about transportation.
I could talk about many other heroic efforts by our leaders to reduce the federal budget surplus. But the tragic fact is, they have failed. The surplus has reached such alarming levels that it now appears likely that Congress may actually reduce your taxes slightly. Of course, Congress must first argue for months about exactly which of you taxpayers are worthy of being allowed to keep slightly more of your money. And no matter what Congress decides, the odds are that you, personally, won’t get much tax relief – certainly nowhere near Reindeer Herder Association money.
But still, thanks to the generosity of Congress, some day – perhaps as early as next year – you might be able to afford a slightly nicer summer vacation! The Greyhound Bus Museum is open from May 15 through the end of September.
Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald. Write to him c/o The Miami Herald, One Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132.
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