Have you ever heard of National Dairy Goat Awareness Week? How about National Mule Appreciation Day, or National Lice Infestation Prevention Month?
These are just a few of the growing list of official federal observances that Congress lets itself get roped into approving.Such observances used to look like a cheap, painless way to appease special-interest groups. After all, proclaiming "National Asparagus Month" obviously costs less than hiking farm subsidies. But the practice has clearly gotten out of hand. In the last Congress these commemorations accounted for a full one-third of all bills passed.
So Congress ought to pay careful attention to a reform being pushed by Reps. Dave McCurdy of Oklahoma and Claudine Schneider of Rhode Island. The two lawmakers want to delegate the whole mess to an independent commission. In effect, Congress would tacitly admit that it should not tie itself up making decisions about commemorative days. It already has created commissions to spare itself other burdensome tasks, such as deciding whether to raise its own pay and how to close surplus military bases.
The proliferation of trivial holidays is hardly a national crisis. Eliminating them, Scripps Howard News Service reports, would save only about $1 million in congressional printing costs, or 0.0001 percent of the federal budget.
But they are a telling sign of Capitol Hill's obeisance to the swarms of interest groups that have become steadily more specialized and more effective at circumventing the national interest. By curtailing the long list of sometimes inane commemorations, Congress would send a welcome signal that it just might finally be starting to get its priorities straight.