Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer Was It Worth It?

By Eileen Loh-Harrist

OCTOBER 12, 1998:  Ever plunk down a wad of money for an item you knew you just had to have, only to watch it sit and gather dust for several months? (Will the owners of home fitness equipment, or anything sold by late-night infomercial, please raise your hands?)

Well, a federal audit shows that’s what we U.S. citizens have done, via personal shopper Kenneth Starr: spent $40 million-plus on what amounts to a really bad porno script, only featuring characters no one would ever want to picture having sex.

But in this case, we can’t even unload the useless item at a garage sale down the road. Instead, we’re left to wistfully ruminate over what we could have done with the $40 million spent on the Whitewater investigation (um, it was supposed to be a Whitewater investigation, wasn’t it?).

  • Well, let’s see. Forty million dollars could pay full Medicare benefits for one year to about 8,421 senior citizens in America. It could set up 31 more Head Start centers in the U.S, serving 150 children each, or put 1,230 additional trained police officers on the streets across the country for one year.

  • With 40 million clams, the U.S. government could double the funding it gives annually for research studies at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and throw in $10 million more just for the heck of it. Forty million bucks could put 279,720 more adults through free federally supported GED or adult literacy courses. It could pay for all the hospital care, foster care, and special-education costs of 53 drug-addicted babies until they’re 18.

  • Forty million smackeroos could put 999 drug addicts in long-term residential rehabilitation for one year, and provide the new “rapidly accelerated detoxification” treatment to 6,666 people hooked on heroin and other opiates.

Forty million dollars could potentially:

  • Provide $29,500 grants to 1,355 promising medical research projects;

  • Give full four-year undergraduate scholarships to 500 students wanting to attend Ivy League or other private schools; or to 1,250 students wanting to attend public universities;

  • Send two nutritious meals per day to 3,968 home-bound elderly people for one year;

  • Provide one year’s worth of child-care vouchers to 9,049 children of former welfare recipients entering the workforce;

    Buy 166,666 gaudy Zegna ties for President Clinton, and pay the overtime costs of 2,353 reporters assigned to speculate on the hidden meaning of said neckwear;

  • Put the Clintons and 39,999 other couples through an intensive three-day sexual-addiction-recovery “partners” workshop, and

  • Buy 3,389,830 “Don Carlos #2” Cuban cigars for Monica Lewinsky, who may never have another boyfriend.

Huh. A $40 million, 445-page detailed probe into the president’s zipper antics. Now, this all may lead to impeachment, which would make millions of American citizens just wet their pants with glee, or it may lead to ... nothing at all.

Would it really be worth it? This is $40 million taken directly from our paychecks, without our consent as to how it is spent. Did our federal government really put this money toward our best interest?

Well, someone might, one day, be able to get two bucks at a garage sale for their original $8 paperback edition of The Starr Report: The Findings of Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr on President Clinton and the Lewinsky Affair. That should make all the bargain junkies happy.

The rest of us, however, are left to just wonder.

Eileen Loh-Harrist is a freelance writer living in Memphis.

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