Politicians know soft touches when they see them. They also obey W. C. Fields’ dictum: “Never give a sucker an even break.”
Back in the fall of 2001, the legislature of California saw their opportunity, and they took it. They passed a law that let California residents buy special license plates honoring the people who perished in 9-11. It was called the California Memorial Scholarship Program. I mean, who could vote against that? Fifteen percent of the money would be used to set up college scholarships for the children of those who died. The other 85% would go to anti-terrorism spending.
The license plates had this imprinted on them: We Will Never Forget.
Then the voters forgot to monitor the politicians.
Hundreds of thousands of Californians went for this, hook, line, and sinker.
The project has raised $15 million. How much of the $15 million raised went for the children of the victims? A grand total of $21,381.
About $3 million went for debt reduction. Arnold got his share. Jerry got his.
The program was shut down in 2005. When I say “program,” I do not mean the sale of the plates. I mean the distribution of the funds to children. The sale of the plates continued. The suckers kept sending in their money: $1.5 million a year. Why look a gift horse in the mouth?
Some of the money went to study livestock diseases. Some went for workplace safety.
“I can’t believe that they would do that,” said Candice Hoglan, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and bought a plate to commemorate her nephew, Mark Bingham. “We’re paying extra for the plate; we’re making a point, and it means a lot to us.”
Candice, Candice, Candice: it’s time to grow up. This is politics.
The plates, which cost an initial $50 plus a $40 annual renewal fee, feature an American flag partially obscured by clouds and the “never forget” slogan. Residents of California, where all four jetliners were bound when they were hijacked, have bought or renewed the plates more than 200,000 times since 2002.
It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
For the past decade, the California DMV has said on its website that the money will “fund scholarships for the children of Californians who died in the September 11, 2001, terror attacks and helps California’s law enforcement fight threats of terrorism.” It advertises the program with the slogan, “Be a patriot.”
Why be a patriot? Because patriots are naive. They keep falling for the same bait-and-switch program year after year. They actually believe that the state is using, or has ever used, the money to help children.
Whenever you hear these words from a politician — “It’s for the children.” — you can be sure that it isn’t.