"It's what the state spends to promote tourism."

The test chamber went silent.

Then, there was an uneasy shuffling of feet and political philosophies.

"We can't get rid of that," said a novice legislator, who had run on a platform of placing a limit on the time people can remain on welfare of 20 minutes. "That money helps promote small businesses, like the ones that supported me in my coastal town."

Another newbie politician, an advocate of restricting food-stamp purchases to "communist foods, like tofu," argued that if the state didn't pay for tourism advertising, "Restaurants, ski resorts and motels would have to cover the cost themselves. That's not fair, particularly since their owners donated to my campaign."

"But," said the institute's researcher, now ensconced in a bomb-proof isolation booth, "all of you ran on the premise that government shouldn't meddle in private enterprise, and all that's needed for a return to prosperity is for the business community to be left alone. Isn't paying for spots on out-of-state TV stations to promote Maine amusement parks and ice-cream stands inconsistent with that view?"

"Get him!" screamed the Republican mob. "He's a liberal!"

At this point, the institute decided to terminate the experiment, and we slipped away to enjoy expensive three-martini lunches.

After all, the government was picking up the tab.

Regardless of my funding source, I never take a vacation from reading e-mails sent toaldiamon@herniahill.net.

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