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In search of a subsidy

I hadn't been in the hardware business long before I realized I was making my living with a handicap, like boxing with one hand, or high jumping with one leg.

So I went to my banker, and waited impatiently for him to unlock the door early one morning. Ideas are what I have. Money is what he has. He and I meeting isn't anything new.

I said to him, "Sir (always suck up to a banker), I have this idea. Several studies as to the ill effects of hardware (one at the end of each month I'm in business, when I try to pay all the bills) show beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is hazardous to my health."

(It's giving me an ulcer. And headaches. And facial tics.)

"Plus" I went on, "it's hazardous to everyone's health who shops in a hardware store."

I went on. I was on a roll.

"Studies show that 300,000 Americans a year die from the ill effects of nuts and bolts."

(Cars and machinery have nuts and bolts, right?)

"So?" he said.

"So" I went on, "since hardware is so harmful, which must be what's keeping people from buying enough stuff from me that I can drive Cadillacs, I think it needs some government support."

I looked at him. He looked at me.

"I need a subsidy."

He looked at his watch. Sir said: "How much?"

I said: "Enough to line enough congressmen's pockets to get them to pass a good, old-fashioned subsidy."

Judging from what other industries are spending to get their subsidies, I told him about a hundred million bucks, give or take a couple of congressmen.

He pointed at the door. I took it.

The new agriculture bill is coming out soon. It's got lots of subsidy money in it for crops. But there's nothing in there for hardware stores. Since I no longer own a hardware store, I'm not in one so much. But I'm in one enough that I could be one of those people whose health - and pocket book - is negatively affected, so I'm still in there pitching for money.

The Wall Street Journal, which I don't subscribe to because rumor has it that it is printed with ink made from subsidized soybeans grown by large farms who are owned by corporations made up of people who all drive Cadillacs, said this about the new farm bill, more or less: "What we need in Washington is some adult supervision; how else to explain this $174 billion bucket of slop."

Whew. If they would only say that about hardware.

Really, I understand a small corn or soybean farmer getting some of this, but it's the tobacco stuff that doesn't make any sense at all. I feel really confused that the new bill headed for the president's signature has even less money in it for the Food and Drug Administration. These of course are the people who know that tobacco is harmful to one's health. They're in kind of a hurry. They'd like to get tobacco labeled a harmful drug before the smokers all die and we have no one left to send to Congress to crank out buckets of slop.

Not that all of the congressmen smoke. Not all. Just 21 percent, so we'd lose two out of 10 congressmen. Couldn't get enough of them in there any day for them to vote.

Maybe that would be good. The way they're not voting now to solve our other problems, it might not matter much one way or the other.

We're giving tobacco farmers a billion dollars.

About that hardware subsidy...