For Father's Day, give him a Navy ship

Lobby Congress for a personal earmark for Dad to buy, say, a National Center for the Improvement of his Golf Swing.

This Father's Day, get Dad the best. And by "best" I don't mean the usual gimcrack, however expensive.

Flat-screen gas grill? He already owns one, and so do all his buddies. Remote-control hedge clipper? Yardwork is yardwork, even when controlled from the comfort of a couch.

No, this year Dad deserves something special: an earmark of his very own.

Earmarks – in case the only news you read juxtaposes the words "Paris" and "Hilton" – are pet projects shoehorned into spending bills by members of Congress.

Typically, earmarks fund crucial public needs, such as dams on rivers that are mostly dry, or bridges that connect two unpopulated areas, or puppet shows that publicize the dangers of jaywalking.

In the old days, only big companies or fat-cat contributors could purchase ... er, persuade congressmen of the fiscal benefits of their favored projects. But thanks to the miracle of modern lobbying, today almost anyone can aspire to their own piece of the US spending pie.

This year alone the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee has received over 30,000 requests from individual members for earmarks. Given that tsunami, who'd notice one more, added in honor of dear old Dad?

For instance, maybe your father likes golf. Perhaps he'd appreciate $4.5 million in federal funding for a National Center for the Study of the Backswing, conveniently located in your backyard.

Or if boating's his thing, maybe he'd prefer a surplus Navy cruiser. Their Aegis radars make great fish finders – when they're not tracking North Korean missiles, that is.

If Dad's a traditionalist, maybe he'd like to be memorialized as an equestrian statue in a D.C. park. Nowadays nobody remembers General Sherman, anyway.

Personally, I'm hoping for my very own federal courthouse. That way, next time my sons start tussling over the new "Ranger Rick," I can tell them they'll have to settle things in the US Circuit Court of the Griers.

Sure, budget watchdog groups claim that earmarks are sucking billions of dollars out of the treasury at a time when the federal deficit is near historic levels. But isn't seeing a smile on Dad's tired face worth spending an extra 0.04 percent of US Gross Domestic Product?

And some might say that a plutonium production reactor for the basement, as a Father's Day gift, is excessive. Maybe. But he's worth it, this once.

Next year you can give him the Spackle.

• Peter Grier is a staff writer in the Monitor's Washington Bureau.

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