Books, Shmooks
 by Christian Livemore

George W. Bush must be trying to win a limbo contest.

I've come to this conclusion because the latest brainstorm out of the
White House -- cutting Federal funding to RIF (Reading is Fundamental,
the program that distributes free books to needy children) -- leaves me
with one overpowering question:

How low can he go?

Bush's 2002 budget proposes to cut ALL funding to the program.
It amounted to $23 million this year.
This would eliminate about 70 percent of RIF's budget.

Up until now, I had been under the impression that Bush did not care that he was stupid.
I was mistaken.  It now seems that he doesn’t care if everybody else is stupid, too.

I can just hear the debate in the White House now.

"Mr. President, what do you want to do about RIF?"

"Who's Rif?  That my new dealer?
 Tell him I want a gram.
 No, make it two.
 That China business was haaaard."

"No sir, RIF is the program that gives free books to poor children."


“Yes sir.  It helps them learn to read quicker.”

“Read, schmead.  What do you need to read for?
 They’re all gonna live off of welfare anyway…
 But wait – do they have Bibles?”

 I believe we have just found the true meaning of the phrase ‘compassionate conservative’:
 “Fuck ‘em, they’re not my kids.”

Bush is probably far less concerned with the plight of these
underprivileged children than he is with Josh Harris, who, a recent
Washington Post article about the downturn in the Nasdaq reports,
recently saw his personal fortune sink to a measly $1.5 million because
of the failure of his start-up,

Poor Josh.

His business has failed, he's down to his last 1.5 million, and to top
it all off, his pet lizard Maurice Jr. just died.

How will he deal with the heartache?  He's leaving for an ashram in India.
"I really need to reconnect," he says.

Maybe Bush can redirect some of the RIF funding to buy Josh a new lizard.

Bush is probably also very concerned about all the ladies of New York, who,
according to this same Post article, have had to cut down on their plastic surgery.

"It's the summer season coming up, so my patients must have tune-ups,"
says Pamela Lipkin, a high-end plastic surgeon on Fifth Avenue.
"But instead of doing liposuction on seven areas, they're doing three or four.
These decisions are so painful."

I'd like to say something here, and let me just say beforehand that I
mean this in the nicest possible way:

Fuck Josh and his stupid lizard.
And that goes double for the sagging ladies of Fifth Avenue.

It's not enough for Bush to cut funding for children's healthcare.
It's not enough for him to cut funding to abused children.
Now he wants to take away their freekin' books?

Maybe it's because he grew up so obscenely wealthy.
Maybe it’s because he had everything a person could ever possibly want.
Maybe it’s because he never had to work for a thing in his life – including
the Presidency – and so he learned the value of nothing.

Or maybe he’s just an asshole.

Conservatives crack me up.  They embrace the most head-spinning set of
contradictions existing on planet Earth today.

They insist on their right to own guns.
They scream that any common-sense gun laws are an infringement on personal freedom.

Then whenever there’s another school shooting, they whine about the permissive liberal
lifestyle that doesn’t discipline their children, even though most of these kids got these guns
from their right-wing Republican, NRA member grandfather’s shed.

They vehemently oppose abortion.  They say that every child has a right
to be born, and that it’s wrong to terminate a pregnancy, even if the
mother is so poor she won’t be able to care for the child.

Then they cut funding for Head Start and children’s healthcare.

They complain about the state of the education system in this country.
They claim they’ll leave no child behind.

Then they campaign for vouchers, which will take funding away from the
schools that need it most, and those kids who couldn’t get into private
school are left twisting in the wind at underfunded public schools with
second-rate books and inexperienced teachers.

They complain about the welfare state.  They say these folks should
stop living off the government and go out and get themselves a job.

But then they take away kids’ books so they won’t learn to read and are
doomed to a life of low-level jobs and poverty.

Since so many Republicans are wealthy, it surprises me that they seem not to understand
a fundamental principle of investing:  You gotta spend money to make money.

You want a prosperous society where everybody pulls their own weight and welfare isn’t necessary?

Invest now in children’s healthcare, so kids are well and strong enough
to focus on their studies.

Invest now in inner-city schools, so that kids have adequate books, a decent student-teacher ratio,
maybe a computer or two, and don’t have to stand in class because of a lack of desks.

Invest now in training programs for their parents, so they can get better-paying jobs, maybe move
their kids into a house with a yard, and have energy to spend a little more time with them,
help them with their homework.

You can either spend the money now and give these kids the tools they need to stand on
their own two feet, or you can spend it later, when they’re undereducated because you
cut the funding to RIF and Head Start and inner-city schools, and jobs have gone south
because you just had to have your $1.7 trillion tax cut that crashed the economy,
and now you’re forced to expand the welfare program or face record homelessness,
child abuse and neglect rates, and staggering Medicaid costs because you didn’t reform
the healthcare system and nobody can afford health insurance.

Let me tell you something:  I grew up poor.  Really poor.
RIF gave me an exposure to books I never would have gotten otherwise.
Oh sure, the school library had books -- history books, geography books, science books
-- but they didn't have The Giving Tree.

They didn't have Green Eggs and Ham or Mulberry Street.
They didn't have The Five Chinese Brothers.

These books taught me that reading was for fun, not just for work.
They made me laugh, and they made me want to read more.
They nurtured in me a curiosity I might not have developed otherwise,
growing up in the projects, where drug dealers cruised in their Cadillacs
and other girls my age were prostituting themselves for crack.
It took a lot of energy just to keep from becoming like them.

These books showed me that there was a world out there besides the one I saw every day.
I don't know what would have become of me without them.

But wait – that gives me an idea.
If I was uneducated, lacked curiosity and was completely ignorant of the world around me?
Nowadays maybe I do know what would become of me after all:

I could be the President of the United States.

Oh but wait, that’s right:  it’s not enough to be stupid to be President.
You have to be rich, too.