It seems like the price of just about everything's going up these days. Back in Clinton's second term, it used to be that you could buy an appointment as an ambassador for the price of a used car. (Of course, if you wanted to get the much-coveted position of ambassador to France, you might have to pay over half a million to the Democratic political machine.) In the Shrubian era, things have gotten so spendy. Ronald Spogli had to fork over $697,807 to be ambassador to Italy. (I agree with his taste--Italian food and parties are definitely better than anything in France.) William Timken Jr. paid just short of a half a million to be sent to Germany, and David Mulford paid $235,551 to go to India. The number of ambassadors getting their position for free went from 3 under Clinton to 1 under Shrub. All told, Clinton's 12 second-term appointees forked over $831,636 while Shrub's dirty dozen donated $1,768,678. Hmmm. I'd be happy if they'd send me anywhere. Could I donate my used car for an ambassadorial position in Bhutan? Someone in the government needs to publish a list of what these positions cost so that those of us who live outside Washington can join in the bidding.
Now by citing all these numbers, I certainly don't wish to imply that ambassadors and other politicians in our great nation do nothing but eat good food and make secret deals for no-bid contractors. They also concern themselves with highly important matters affecting the state of the nation. Recently, for example, several members of congress took time out of their busy party schedules to protest to Egypt over the shortage of palm fronds (lulavs). Egypt had limited the cutting of the fronds to protect the fruit-bearing trees, causing a shortage of lulavs for the Jewish Sukkot celebration. I wonder if they'll next turn their attention to the shortage of beads available for Buddhist rosaries. Maybe we can get Ambassador Mulford to twist India's arm so that they allow more sandalwood exports.
[Source of the stats cited: WaPo, Oct. 17, 2005, A13]