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March 8 2013

White House Calligraphy Office: $277,000 a Year...

Charlotte Hays

The sequester has put a spring in my step.

The sequester is not the best way to begin to address our nation’s fiscal problems, but it may be the only way with President Obama in the White House.

The important thing is that the GOP stood firm on its principles and the sky didn’t fall, despite the president’s warnings that it would and that the public would blame the Republicans. This could be the beginning of something big.

In an attempt to make the deprivations caused by the sequester more visible, the Obama administration cancelled public tours of the White House.

This made the sequester visible all right, but I am betting the president now wishes he had not been so petty. What this did was make us look at how the government spends our money in general.  

The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel writes:

The cancellations were an open invitation for the nation to dive into the gory depths of the federal budget—and re-emerge with a debate over waste and priorities. Over the past week, an entire cottage industry has sprung up of journalists, watchdog groups and average citizens reporting on the absurdities of federal spending. Republicans have lit up Twitter with examples of indefensible projects (#SequesterThis).

We've learned that the White House employs three calligraphers, who cumulatively earn $277,000 a year. The Environmental Protection Agency gave $141,000 to fund a Chinese study on swine manure. Part of a $325,000 National Science Foundation outlay went to building a robotic squirrel.

The government gave a $3,700 grant to build a miniature street in West Virginia—out of Legos. It shelled out $500,000 to support specialty shampoo products for cats and dogs. A San Diego outfit got $10,000 for trolley dancing. The feds last year held 894 conferences that each cost more than $100,000—$340 million altogether. But Mr. Obama is too broke to let American kids look around the White House.

Speaking of that, the tour stunt itself is turning into a PR fiasco. ABC reports the cancellations save a total of $18,000 a week. A Forbes opinion piece noted the cost of cutting the tours was equal to about two hours operating Air Force One. Speaker John Boehner twisted the knife, announcing that while Congress was also getting hit by sequester, it had planned wisely, and tours of the Capitol would continue. Come on down folks! Visit the government branch that knows how to prioritize!

To top it off, a group of cherubic sixth-graders from St. Paul's Lutheran School in Waverly, Iowa, became a national sensation in a YouTube video pleading with the White House to reopen tours. "The White House is our house. Please let us visit," they beg in unison. The White House hasn't yet responded, no doubt being too busy overseeing its $27 million project that helped fund pottery classes in Morocco. (No joke.)

President Obama’s approval ratings have fallen in the wake of his apocalyptic warnings about the sequester, and he recognized this by doing the previously unthinkable: taking 12 Republicans to dinner at the Jefferson Hotel. He reportedly picked up the tab. I think this is only right in light of our having picked up the tab for some awfully fancy Obama family holiday travel. I do hope Republicans can’t be hoodwinked by a meal at the Jefferson!

The dinner diplomacy with members of the Republican Party doesn’t really change things, and one hopes Republicans are wise enough to take it with a grain of salt. But the president’s realization that he has to talk to Republicans, ever how distasteful it might be, came not from their making concessions but from their standing firm.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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