Friday, April 8, 2011


What's the opposite of shutdown?  Shut up?  Open up, I guess.  We like to say extra words.  Sit down.  Stand up.  Hurry up.  Slow down.  Think of all the ink and breath we could save if we cut out redundancies.

One of my pet peeves is providing the same data twice.  For example, you call a credit card company to report that you'll be traveling overseas, so the company won't reject your card when you try to use it in Rome.  "Please enter your 16-digit account number followed by the # sign," the company's computer instructs.  You do so.  When a live person finally comes on the line, what is the first question asked?  "What's your account number, please?"  Now why did I enter it and press #?

When you get a new car, you go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to register it and obtain license plates.  "Is that all I need to do?" you ask.  "That's it, thank you."  Not so.  You still need to notify the county, maybe even your city.  I realize these are separate governmental entities, but couldn't they get together?  As a matter of fact, where we live, they do.  When you remember and go to the county 35 days later to get a county windshield sticker, the county may inform you two things.  Number one, "you should have come in at least 5 days ago, you were supposed to let us know within 30 days."  How does it know?  Its computer tells it so.  Yet I'm supposed to remind it?  Number two, "you'll have to pay a fine because you're late."  I owe a fine because I failed to tell it what its computer already knew?

I have a feeling that closing the federal government due to political wrangling in Washington, fussing with what happens or doesn't happen as a result, and then reopening it are going to cost more than keeping it open.  A better idea might be to require each federal government employee to identify at least one thing he or she does that wouldn't have to be done if things were done efficiently -- every year. State and local governments could require the same of their employees.

"I bet that would save $40 billion," says Virginia.

Why did she pick that amount?  Oh, the Republicans want to cut $40 billion and the Democrats $38 billion.  They're fighting over chicken feed; we'll spend the $2 billion difference in Libya in no time.  Let's see -- 800,000 furloughed federal employees times $2500 = $ 2 billion.  Does this make more sense to you than it does to me?

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