Published Sunday, March 24, 2013

An unexpected civics lesson

So far, the Dreaded Sequester that was supposed to End the World as we know it has been more whimper than bang. It happens. Especially in D.C., where self-serving politicians have perfected the art of crying “Wolf.”

On the bright side, the Dreaded Sequester has produced a civics lesson many Americans had either failed to learn, forgotten or were happy to ignore. That lesson was taught recently by a group of students.

As the Dreaded Sequester approached, President Obama said failing to increase spending as much as he wanted (which is all the sequester did) would result in the layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters, and the closing of national parks, an airport tower in Florida and a VD clinic in Seattle.

But no one guessed that tours of the White House would be canceled for lack of funds.

The news was especially bad for a group of sixth-graders from St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Waverly, Iowa. Last year, the kids booked a March 2013 White House tour and spent months raising funds to pay their expenses.

To their credit, when their tour was canceled, the students didn’t roll over. They fought back and became an overnight sensation when they appeared on YouTube pleading for their tour to be reinstated.

Viewers especially loved the students’ sign that said: “The White House is our House.”

Yes, kids, it is. And thanks to all of you for reminding us The White House is OUR house. And We the People should decide when our nation’s swankiest rental property is open for inspection by its taxpaying landlords — or their sixth-grade children.

The people who pay the bills and keep the lights and air-conditioning on at public buildings should have the last word on whether federal facilities that normally host citizen tours stay open or close down.

In their YouTube video, the Iowa students also displayed another sign. Unfortunately, it said, “Please let us visit.”

Saying “Please?” To a politician? In America?

The students were trying to be polite and that’s a credit to their parents and teachers, but the sign should have said, “Open the door or we’ll break it down.” The kids could have gotten plenty of help with that chore.

In America, we don’t beg politicians for permission. Or we didn’t. In his Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln reminded us that ours is a “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

The second sentence of our Declaration of Independence states that governments derive their just powers from “The consent of the governed.”

It’s never a bad time to remind our elected officials that the citizens have the last word on how they exercise the powers granted to them by voters.

To highlight the monetary hypocrisy, the same week White House tours were canceled for lack of funds, “researchers” were still wasting $1.5 million tax dollars studying obesity problems in lesbians.

Better yet, it was also revealed that the U.S. Senate barber shop has run a $350,000 annual deficit for over 15 years. Have you heard Senators call for funding cuts to their private clip joint? Don’t hold your breath.

Kids can’t tour the White House, but Senators get subsidized hair cuts.

Only in Washington.

The Iowa school kids went to Washington, but on March 16, instead of touring the White House, they were standing outside the gates posing for pictures.

The photos summed up what’s happening in America today: politicians live like royalty while citizens are stuck on the outside looking in. Once upon a time, our elected officials would have been scared to death to even consider such a thing.

Maybe it’s time to make them anxious again.


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