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Cool, but not for spending

| Sunday, June 17, 2012, 12:30 a.m.

I'll shut off my air conditioning if the government goes first.

Maybe I better explain.

Federal records say the United States recently completed the hottest spring since such record-keeping began in 1895.

March, April and May average temperatures in the lower 48 states surpassed the oldest spring average-temperature record by a full 2 degrees.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also reported that this May was the second warmest on record.

The warmest May ever occurred in 1934.

America is going through a hot spell, to be sure.

Well, some environmentalists are certain that it is primarily man's activities, not natural cycles, that cause the warming.

They say air conditioning runs on electricity and electricity in America is generated mostly by coal-fired plants that pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

They want us to give up air conditioning and other modern conveniences.

I think they're on to something -- so long as the government shuts down its air conditioners first.

Air conditioning was invented by Willis Haviland Carrier in 1902. Initially it was used for industrial purposes, but by the mid-1920s, it was being used for human comfort.

Department stores and movie houses were among the first to install cooling technology. Regrettably, the federal government soon followed.

Washington, D.C., is a hot, humid place in the summertime -- made even hotter by so many blowhards who give long-winded speeches on how Washington ought to spend more taxpayer money.

Before air conditioning, federal agencies routinely shut down when the temperature got too high, giving them that much less time to think up ways to waste our money.

Thanks to the heat, Washington was empty from mid-June to September and our government remained relatively small.

Heck, I wonder how many government programs dreamt up during the Great Depression era might not have happened had federal government buildings been made unbearable by hot, sticky air.

Since air conditioning has been commonplace in Washington, the government runs full tilt all year long.

Now it can spend lots more time working on, as former New York Times columnist Russell Baker once wrote, "the promulgation of more laws, the depredations of lobbyists, the hatching of new schemes for Federal expansion and, of course, the cost of maintaining a government running at full blast."

I know air conditioning has improved life for the elderly and others with respiratory problems.

I know capitalistic efficiencies have made it possible for any American to install a window AC unit that could save lives for as little as $100.

I know our productivity and comfort have been vastly improved by cool air, and that there is still debate about the extent to which AC may contribute to global warming.

I'm just saying that this productivity and comfort have come at a price -- that without AC, Washington's federal buildings would be empty during the hotter months.

Hey, we might have 30 percent fewer government programs and 30 percent less spending.

We might have a zero deficit right now as a result ($4 trillion budget, minus 30 percent in spending, equals savings of $1.2 trillion).

Now, I certainly don't want to give up my air conditioning and the comfort it provides. But if the federal government went first, I just might.

If our government doesn't get spending under control, we will eventually have a meltdown so boiling hot, no amount of air conditioning will be able to fix it.

Tom Purcell, a freelance writer, lives in Library. Visit him on the web at . Email him at:

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