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When I want to learn about something, I generally start with my good friend, the Google. Depending on how much I want to know, it can stop there, or lead me to the local public library. Sometimes, when I want to know a lot about one particular thing, I even head for one of the university libraries in town.
What I want to learn today is why climate change is bad. Apparently, that can't be learned through Google or the library. It also can't be taught with access to the most current scientific studies or personal consultation with experts in the field. It appears to require about a hundred grand, access to airplanes, and true bi-partisanship.
Bi-partisanship is supposed to be what it's all about, right? So when ten members of Congress (and their spouses) took an eleven-day trip to Australia and the South Pole to see for themselves what climate change is doing to the planet, it ought to warm our hearts that four of them were Republicans and six were Democrats.
And warm my heart it does. I'm so happy that they put aside their partisan bickering for the good of the country. They snorkeled together. They played with penguins together. That's just awesome. I'm so glad that both parties can talk--without irony--about cost control and deficit management when they are spending $100,000 plus (not including air transportation on military planes) on a "fact-finding" trip. I'm interested to hear about the samples that they collected and what conclusions they reached when they brought the samples back to their labs for analysis.
I'm also interested to hear about what another bi-partisan delegation, of Senators this time, learned after spending $121,000 (not including airfare) to attend the Paris Air Show. For that price, it's got to be good.
Congressional overseas travel cost the taxpayers $13 million last year, almost 10 times the amount spent in 1995. The spouses have to pay for their own food, but not the airfare or hotel. To hear one representative tell it, if spouses didn't get to go along, either nobody would travel or marriages would end. Probably Governor Sanford didn't get that memo.
I'm not suggesting that overseas travel isn't necessary. Visiting our military installations, for example, is important. But if bi-partisan Congressional delegations are dropping more than twice what the average American makes in a year in what amounts to a vacation so that they can "learn" what I'm guessing I can find out in twenty minutes on the Internet, they should probably think twice the next time they try to convince us that universal healthcare is too expensive.