WASHINGTON — Among the things for which Americans can be thankful is Washington's resolve to temper severity with mercy: It will seriously — this time we really mean business, we are not going to be Greece, or worse, Illinois — restrain spending but will not balance the budget on the backs of popcorn eaters. Growers of this essential snack may yet retain their subsidy, lest the price of a tub of the stuff at the movies soar by a nickel, even a dime. Can't have that. Or this: "I," said Terry List, "would not recommend to my pupils to become a teacher in Michigan" because a proposed pension reform would delay her retirement past age 47. Under Michigan's mandatory evaluation system, all the teachers in Hazel Park School District were given the top rating — "highly qualified" — yet the high school was given an "F" for student achievement.
Ignoring William James' admonition that one should do an unpleasant duty every day just to stay in moral trim, millions of voters did not dutifully vote. In a burst of ennui, turnout declined for the first time in 16 years. Who says you cannot make a souffle rise twice? Barack Obama was re-elected. Having spent four years making a sow's ear out of the silk purse of public support with which he began his presidency, he won by essentially vowing for his new term what an NBA player promised his new team: "We'll turn the program around 360 degrees." Joe Biden called his boss's decision to kill Osama bin Laden the most "audacious plan" in 500 years. Pick your counterexamples.
Tina Brown applied her editor's magic to Newsweek, R.I.P. If only she now could become editor of The New York Times. In a radio broadcast, a Times food columnist said government should "protect us from things from which we can't protect ourselves." He meant sugar. Michael Bloomberg, scourge of big sodas, undoubtedly agrees. Angela Prattis, the lunch lady of Chester Township, Pa., was threatened with a $600 fine for giving sandwiches to hungry children but was told she might get permission after a hearing that could cost her $1,000. Proco "Joe" Moreno, a Chicago alderman and ethicist — an unusual combination of vocations — vowed to block Chick-fil-A from building a second Chicago store because the company's president, like the laws of 37 states — and like the U.S. president until six months ago — defined marriage as between a man and a woman. A Brazilian notary recognized a "civil union" of two women and a man.
You can be queasy being green: A reusable grocery bag was blamed for an outbreak of norovirus-caused diarrhea and nausea. But lighten up, Kermit, it's lucrative being green. Al Gore (estimated net worth, $100 million) has invested in 14 renewable energy firms that have benefited from $2.5 billion in taxpayer benefits. For the seventh consecutive hurricane season, none hit Florida. After Katrina in 2005, climate-change prophets said major (Category 3 or higher) hurricanes would increase. None has hit the U.S. since that year, the longest period without one since reliable records began being kept in 1851. World corn prices surged 25 percent as America put 40 percent of its crop in gas tanks as ethanol. The Obama administration, claiming creation of 2.7 million "green jobs," said that category includes sellers of antiques — recycling, you see.
Big Teacher is watching: Some Orwellian school districts asked children to wear bracelets monitoring their physical activity and reporting it to a website. North Haven, Conn., ordered a family to stop keeping "livestock" — a pet rabbit — on its property.
Literature flourished this year as sales of the "Fifty Shades" trilogy passed 40 million. Hot for egalite, France's new socialist government proposed banning homework because it gives advantages to students from homes conducive to study. Congress found that Amtrak spends $16.15 to make a cheeseburger it sells for $9.50. Houston's new "pole tax" — $5 per customer at strip clubs — will fund rape investigations because the clubs promote unhealthy attitudes about women. Los Angeles County's $1 billion pornographic movie industry may decamp for more libertarian precincts now that voters passed a measure requiring performers to wear condoms.
Florence Green, the last World War I veteran anywhere, died in England two weeks shy of 111. Finally, at Bishop Hartley High School in Columbus, Ohio, Megan Ryan has Down syndrome and the title of Homecoming Queen, which by itself redeems 2012.
George Will's email address is email@example.com.