- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Money trees

When it comes to fiscal responsibility, Inside the Beltway gives credit where it is due.

There’s no finer example this week than Rep. Randy Neugebauer, who has temporarily restored faith in Congress by ending funding of federal grants to study college dorm room wall decorations and keep personal diaries.

Specifically, the Texas Republican introduced an amendment to the 2005 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill to prohibit the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) from funding two grants. The amendment was approved by voice vote, and for good reason.

One study, titled “Expressions of Identity in Virtual and Physical Spaces,” paid college students $100 to decorate their dorm room walls. Researchers then attempted to discern how students express themselves through the decorations.

As an added incentive, three $1,000 prizes were given away in a lottery to the students who participated in the study.

The second study, “Goals, Identity and Meaning in Life,” attempted to find out “what makes a meaningful day” for today’s college students. To learn this, the study asked participants to keep a diary in which they documented meaningful events (since 1995, NIMH has provided diary-keepers more than $1 million).

“The federal government has no business paying someone more than a million dollars to figure out that college can be a meaningful experience,” says Mr. Neugebauer.

New problems

Perhaps President Clinton’s national security documents won’t be swiped so easily under legislation just passed by the House to improve the efficiency of operations at the National Archives.

Introduced by Rep. Adam H. Putnam, Florida Republican and chairman of the subcommittee on information policy, the legislation was approved unanimously this week and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Created by Congress in 1934 as the nation’s record keeper, the National Archives is a small agency that has been given a very large task of identifying, acquiring, preserving and providing access to the permanently valuable records of the federal government — including documents that Mr. Clinton’s former national security adviser, Samuel R. Berger, was observed stealing (some of the records he ultimately destroyed) several weeks ago.

Besides what’s now left of Mr. Clinton’s papers, the National Archives holds everything from the records of the Continental Congress to the battle maps of Operation Desert Storm, parchment to e-mail.

The National Archives and Records Administration “has a difficult but important job as the nation’s record keeper, and by passing this bill, we are able to assist this agency by adding the tools they need to make them more efficient in dealing with the problems of the 21st century,” says Mr. Putnam.

Super-sized U.S.

A congressional subcommittee today will hold its first-ever oversight hearing examining the increasing number of obese Americans.

According to the latest National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, 31 percent of adults in the United States over the age of 20 are obese, while another 65 percent are considered overweight — a 55 percent jump from the previous decade.

It’s an issue that has caught the eye of the House Government Reform wellness and human rights subcommittee and its chairman, Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, who considers the obesity problem a “national health crisis.”

Planting politics

More now on yesterday’s item about the national Democratic Party appealing for financial aid in hurricane-battered Florida, where a succession of deadly storms has seriously hampered fund-raising efforts at a critical time in the 2004 campaign.

“In line with that,” writes Inside the Beltway reader Larry Whitehurst from Wisconsin, “I actually tuned to Air America radio and heard one of the morning-show hosts … comment that she believed it when she heard that … the Bush administration is seeding clouds over the Atlantic to enable more hurricanes so that Florida voters will not be able to reach the polls.”

Have you been eating too much cheese, Mr. Whitehurst?

“When I heard this, I fell out of my chair laughing,” he insists. “I sure hope most other listeners did, because those that would believe something like this … should not be allowed even near the election voting booths.”

American dynasty

“We have so many wonderful memories of Iowa from all those years that we campaigned here for … President Bush and President Bush.”

— First lady Laura Bush, stumping in Iowa this week on behalf of the latter President Bush.

• John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]

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