By Ron VandenBoom
Watching the news the other day, I was struck by a story about a growing black market in toilets not just any toilets, but old toilets.
It seems many plumbers when replacing old toilets are keeping them and selling them under the table for a handsome profit.
If thats not enough, the U.S. Border Patrol also reports seeing a rise in the number of porcelain potties filtering over the border from Mexico. According to the experts in such things, they are being purchased by, or will be sold to, an ever-growing number of private citizens willing to pay hefty sums for these pricey privies on the American black market.
So why all the hubbub over costly commodes?
Several years ago Congress decided to limit the amount of water used to flush American toilets to about half the quantity traditionally used from about three gallons to about one and a half gallons.
While this little piece of legislation went unnoticed by most Americans, those who have had their toilets replaced in recent years, or who purchased homes built after the legislation went into effect, have started complaining. It seems the new toilets do not have enough flushing power to always accomplish their mission on the first try. In other cases, they have caused toilets to plug.
The same legislation that created the faulty flushers further angered citizens by limiting the amount of water that can pass through a shower head or shower massage device. Lovers of these devices, particularly the latter, complain that the water no longer comes out with the same force, making them almost useless for the intended purpose.
The crux of the news story was that Congress is finally taking up the issue of repealing this governmental intrusion into the American bathroom.
One place the government has never been too shy to intrude in is the average citizens wallet. But how does the government rate when citizens peek into its wallet.
According to CNN, the grades are now out for the government bookkeeping class of 1998 and a report prepared by the General Accounting Office (GAO) has given less than superior grades to its students.
Only 17 of the 24 largest federal agencies submitted reports to the GAO, despite the 1994 Government Management Reform Act requiring them to do so. Of those that did, five received failing grades and six received Ds for their handling of your money. NASA and the National Science Foundation were the only agencies to receive As.
In light of this recent finding, the current debate between Congress and the Clinton White House over what to do with the budget surplus concerns me. If the federal government cant figure out what it has done with our money, how can it be so sure theres a budget surplus to debate.
Now Im no politician, but it seems to me that managing my tax dollars is little different than managing the family income. You pay the monthly bills and house payment first, then put a little aside for saving, then you decide what you need for luxuries and entertainment, and if there is anything left, you can apply it toward bigger debts.
Congress can use a similar formula. First, Congress should budget for any existing programs it cant eliminate and divide the surplus into thirds.
A third of the money should be returned to the taxpayers not in the form of a new tax law that will take years of debate and years more to understand, but cash in hand right now.
One third could also be kept in savings to help pay for unexpected emergencies like bombing foreign countries we dont happen to like or building new jails to house flag burners.
The last third should be used to reduce the national debt. It will do more than a tax cut to bolster Americas economy.
I dont really expect the government to accept any of my suggestions. Theyre having too much fun calling one another names and debating their pros and cons.
Maybe Herman Talmadge said it best when he said, Virtually everything is under federal control nowadays except the federal budget.