- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 30, 2009

FIDOS UNITED

Woof. Why not give people a tax break for pet care? The novel idea has made it onto the floor of the House, courtesy of Rep.Thaddeus McCotter. The Michigan Republican recently introduced HR 3501, the Humanity and Pets Partnered through the Years (HAPPY) Act, which would allow millions of loving pet owners to deduct up to $3,500 in pet care and veterinary services a year. The reasoning: Easing the tax burden among the nation’s 80 million pet-owning households — they spend $41 billion a year on pet food alone — could ultimately better the economy.

The legislation has its roots in Hollywood — specifically, with proverbial tough-guy actor and film director Robert Davi of “Die Hard” and “License to Kill” fame. Mr. Davi, a dog person with family ties to a large animal-rescue facility, has long cogitated on the greater benefits of pet ownership and wrote about his emerging ideas earlier this year in The Washington Times.

“Dogs and cats bring down blood pressure, they lift spirits, they’re family. They teach us about affection and accountability. There’s proven medical and spiritual value in responsible pet ownership, and we should reinforce and support it,” Mr. Davi tells Inside the Beltway, pointing out that we get tax breaks for other eco-minded acts, like buying a hybrid car.

“So, why not pets? Giving pet owners a tax break is fiscally smart. It supports positive behavior and those health benefits. It’s also a different way of thinking about helping the economy. We need uncommon solutions. It’s like asymmetrical warfare, and thinking outside the box,” Mr. Davi continues. “But I’m telling you, the Beltway types don’t do that. They’re just so myopic about certain things. This legislation could really help.”

The actor — who owns one giant dog named Stella and four assorted doglets — has organized a public petition for the legislation, and a Web site (www.petexemption.com).

THE RIGHT STUFF

It is something to be argued, perhaps, for decades, and Beltway readers are welcome to weigh in. The question: “Are politicians today as wise as those who produced the U.S. Constitution?” It is asked by the virtue-minded In Character magazine.

“No,” says William Voegeli, a scholar with Claremont McKenna Colleges Henry Salvatori Center for the Study of Individual Freedom. “What sets the politicians of 2009 apart from the ones of 1787 is the pervasive modern denial that human nature is something we can understand and a basis on which we can found a political order.”

Jack N. Rakove, professor of history and political science at Stanford University, counters, “Yes, ‘but.’ It is not that politicians today are individually any less intelligent than the Founders were, but rather that the system bequeathed to us requires a far more demanding exercise of political wisdom in order to work.”

CLEAR THINKING

Tenacious town hall spirit is alive and well, says Colin Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring, the nonprofit public-policy group that is tracking how many lawmakers have pledged to actually read all 1,018 pages of heath care reform legislation (118 at this juncture). Now the organization is tracking public sentiment.

The group released a poll Tuesday that found 91 percent of Americans say that all non-emergency legislation should be posted on the Internet for at least 72 hours. Some 96 percent of Republicans, 94 percent of independents and 83 percent of Democrats agree.

“These new poll findings are further evidence that the town hall events over the summer and the massive Sept. 12 rally in Washington reflect a fundamental shift in the country,” Mr. Hanna tells Beltway. “More and more people — left, right and center — are agitating for increased transparency from their government as the new administration seeks to rapidly expand governments role in their lives.”

The findings also reveal a disconnect between some lawmakers and their constituents.

“The poll also makes clear that congressional Democrats are becoming increasingly out of touch with their own supporters. Among self-described liberals, the strongest level of support still garners an impressive majority of 57 percent,” Mr. Hanna adds.

ODD ODDS

Things are incredibly petty on the global scale. Ireland’s largest bookmaker, Paddy Power, began taking bets Tuesday on which world leader will be insulted next by Italys flamboyant prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. He recently mocked President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama with certain descriptors Beltway will not repeat. Expect more of the same, the bookie predicts, and is offering odds of 3-1 that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be next in line for a Berlusconi bash.

“Given his extraordinary track record for ruffling feathers, were sure its only a matter a time before he lands himself in hot water again,” a spokesman says, adding these odds for the next victims: Moammar Gadhafi 7-2, Gordon Brown 4-1, Nicolas Sarkozy 5-1, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 6-1, Pope Benedict XVI 7-1, Kim Jong-il 8-1, Dmitry Medvedev 14-1 and Hu Jintao 18-1.

POLL DU JOUR

*71 percent of Americans say President Obama should concentrate on fostering economic recovery.

*29 percent say he should focus on health care reform.

*71 percent say health care reform will not pass before the end of 2009.

*49 percent say the reform is not likely to pass by next spring.

*48 percent have confidence in the U.S. economy.

*44 percent have faith in the global economy.

Source: A BBC World News America/Harris Poll of 3,636 adults conducted Sept. 9-14.

*Polite applause, catcalls, polls to jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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