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Public servants have gotten way off track

Left to their own devices, feds act mighty strange

Published: Monday, April 28, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

WASHINGTON – No, it’s not your imagination. The federal government has been acting particularly goofy this spring.

Most recently, it gave tacit approval to powdered alcohol. “Palcohol” was all over the news as the newest new thing – add water to the contents of a small packet and, voila!, a Cosmopolitan or a Mojito. Or it could be added to food.

The brave parents who volunteer as guard dogs at high school proms were apoplectic.

The next day, it was explained that a “mistake” had been made. No such approval will be given, at least not immediately. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is reassessing the “labels” the Palcohol developers have proposed.

Does our government learn from its mistakes? Of course not.

We are reminded of another “oops” moment just a few weeks ago when the Department of Homeland Security proposed hiring a private company to track license plates to locate people for various reasons.

The uproar, in the wake of world outrage over the United States’ indiscriminate spying on just about everyone, was intense. The next day, the proposal for yet another huge databank to keep tabs on private citizens was disavowed.

Do the bureaucrats hang their heads in shame at some of the Stupid Government Tricks they devise? Of course not.

A week after the national agony of Tax Day, we learned that more than 1,100 IRS employees who failed to pay taxes or otherwise had tax troubles got bonuses and extra days of paid leave.

According to an IRS inspector general’s audit, even more agency employees who were in trouble with the agency for various reasons got time off and bonuses. What?!

Wasn’t the head of the IRS just apologizing profusely that 30 percent to 40 percent of taxpayers with tax questions can’t get even through to talk to an IRS employee?

Oops, said the IRS. No more bonuses to employees who don’t pay their fair share.

More than 300,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. At least 157 have been killed, many in door-to-door combat operations and IED attacks. Thousands have come home with horrific injuries.

So it is natural that the latest Pentagon order involving women would be a ban on popular hairstyles among women such as twists, dreadlocks and large cornrows. Black women in particular are upset – it is not easy while on active duty to keep hair neat and out of the way by methods now required, let alone chemically straightened.

The Army cites the need for uniformity. It says it does not want to see “unkempt” soldiers. But few women go to work purposefully “unkempt.”

And even fewer are eager to adopt the strategy many military men use – shaved heads. “Very offensive,” said the Congressional Black Caucus of the new Pentagon regulation.

The Pentagon, used to thinking itself infallible, has had no “oops” moment.

An even worse offense has been government’s failure to tell us that the American middle class, what little there is left of it, no longer is the richest in the world.

That honor has been grabbed by Canada. Canada! Our frozen neighbor to the north!

For this perfidy, President Obama scornfully blames Mitt Romney and his ilk, the 1 percenters who keep getting richer to infinity and beyond. The wealthiest and Republicans in Congress who refuse to do anything Obama wants.

He may be right, but his self-righteousness, while all that we middle classers have left of our proud heritage is our guns, is maddening.

Left to its own devices, our government would oversee a nation that drowns its troubles in powder, dismisses valiant soldiers in cornrows, gives bonuses to scofflaw tax auditors, and tracks the license plates of the middle class applying for Canadian visas.

Note to readers: Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for McClatchy-Tribune. Readers may send her email at amcfeatters@nationalpress.com.

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