Our country is in trouble. There is a very real financial crisis. We're engaged in two wars - three if you count Libya. We have 9.2% unemployment and in many places it is much higher than that. Our infrastructure is old and falling apart. We have some of the highest health care costs in the world and the outcomes of our health care are poorer than in very many places in the world. Our educational system is in ruins and is failing our children.
So, which one of these major, intransigent problems do you suppose the tea party contingent in Congress is eager to tackle? Light bulbs! That's right, light bulbs.
The tea partiers are incensed that in 2007 a law was passed that calls for the beginning of a phaseout of the old-fashioned incandescent bulbs beginning in January 2012. Those bulbs waste most of the energy that they consume and they cost households infinitely more in energy bills than the new energy efficient models. Under the law, no new bulbs can go on the market after January 2012 unless they meet a new, higher standard of energy efficiency. The old style bulbs that don't meet the standard that are already on store shelves in January can still be sold but no more can be added to the shelves for consumer purchase. Tea partiers scream that this is an infringement of individual liberty! It is government intrusion, just another example of nanny Big Government.
After all, it is every American's God-given right to waste energy, just as it is every American's God-given right to have cheap gasoline and drive SUVs and humongous trucks that serve no purpose. Nobody has a right to tell us we can't use energy-guzzling incandescent 100-watt light bulbs - least of all the gubmint!
And so, there was a bill to be voted on the House today to repeal that intrusive 2007 law. One of the sponsors of the bill was Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas (naturally!) who sputtered indignantly when asked about the bill, "It is one of those issues out there that just inflames people! What in the world were you doing restricting the kinds of light bulbs in my home?"
This is what inflames people? Of all the issues facing this country, light bulbs inflame people? Well, there is no doubt that they inflame people who listen to Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck who apparently have been shouting about what they call the "light bulb ban" for weeks now, but I seriously doubt that the average man or woman in the street is too concerned about light bulbs. I think they are more concerned about the unemployment rate and the threats to Social Security and Medicare. The great light bulb debate is just an attempt by the right-wingers to misdirect their attention away from the important things.
As long as our House of Representatives continues to spin its wheels under the leadership of John Boehner and waste its time trying to repeal every bit of progressive legislation of the last 100 years, I'm afraid we cannot expect much progress on any of those big problems that threaten to overwhelm us. But God forbid that Michael Burgess, Michele Bachmann, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh should not be able to purchase an incandescent light bulb after January of next year! That might truly mean the end of civilization as we know it.