Romancing The Feds




I’ve spent a lot of time looking into what the US government spends money on. In fact, you could say I’ve spent so much time on their spending that nothing surprises me.


You could say that, but you’d be wrong.


Now they’re getting into my territory, dropping a million dollars into a project studying romance novels. Your taxpayer dollars are also going into a documentary on superheroes, a zombie video game, and promoting a ninja who’s supposed to sneak in and educate children about climate change, among many other things.


But it was the romance stuff that grabbed my attention. Some say a million bucks isn’t much, by Fed standards. My response is to suggest they’ve lost their grip on reality – and math – but never mind.


As a person who writes romantic comedies, I suppose I should be happy about this. Maybe government input will bring a bit more credibility to a genre that’s unfairly put down on the basis of the bodice-rippers of the 70’s. There’s never been a bodice in my stories. I don’t even know how to pronounce bodice.


And the money (in fairness it’s “only” $914,000, which makes it okay) isn’t going toward just writing. The money was given by the National Endowment for the Humanities to help fund The Popular Romance Project, which according to their federally funded but not crashed website:


“Will explore the fascinating, often contradictory origins and influences of popular romance as told in novels, films, comics, advice books, songs, and internet fan fiction, taking a global perspective …”


I think that’s an interesting idea, and I even bookmarked the page. I wonder if I can get some kind of tax break for reading it, as research. But when we’re drowning in more red ink than Starbucks has overpriced coffee, the taxpayer shouldn’t foot the bill for a documentary called “Love Between the Covers”, or academic romance conferences.


What a brilliant scam that is, by the way. “Gotta go, honey: The government’s giving me a free plane ticket to attend a romance conference in Las Vegas. Yeah, I’m serious – why?”


The Romance Project was one of almost a hundred federally funded programs dug up by an Oklahoma Senator named Tom Coburn. I applaud his effort, but I take exception to one thing he said at the opening of his report (which was, I assume, federally funded), called the 2013 Wastebook. He said:


“Place your personal political persuasion aside and ask yourself: Do each of these represent a real national priority that should be spared from budget cuts or are these excesses that should have been eliminated in order to spare deeper cuts to those services and missions that should be performed by the federal government?”


Dude, I know you want to save, but throw in some commas. Besides, I could shorten the whole paragraph down to, “Is this something the government should spend money on when we’re already overspending?”


Why do I take exception to what he said? Because his report suggests the $30 billion in spending he points to could have been better spent elsewhere. What he should have said was that the $30 billion would have been better not spent.


I know, not a romantic concept.


Another problem is the idea of the government getting involved in the romance industry, at all. I mean, what does some bureaucrat in Washington know about romance, anyway? First they’ll say they’re only in it to bring cheap romance to everyone.


They’ll tell you that if you like your lover, you can keep your lover. But they’ll start throwing in rules and regulations, and before you know it, your favorite girlfriends will drop right out of the dating pool. And with only the government approving romance, dating will get more and more expensive even as that dating pool shrinks.


There’ll be only one dating website, no one will be able to log into it, and when they finally do they’ll find the cost of a first date is getting higher and higher. Before you know it the Feds will have total control of romance, when it should be left in the hands of true experts like Doctor Phil, Doctor Ruth, and Fabio.


Well, I’m going to expose them. That’s right. I’m going to write a novel in which evil Feds plot to use pointless spending projects to swamp the citizens of our country in red ink, so the citizens are too busy treading water (um, ink) to pay attention to what’s going on.


It’ll be a romantic comedy.


Somehow I doubt anyone in Washington is worried.


Romantic writing ...  and fire. Often related.
Romantic writing … and fire. Often related.


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