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On Capitol Hill: Give me Styrofoam, or give me death!

March 25, 2011 | 12:06 pm

Styrofoam

Somewhere today, Charlotte Allen's Styrofoam cup runneth over.

Allen, you may recall, wrote a snarky article for the Opinion pages in February titled "Stick a fork in it, we’re done."

In it, she crowed about the dismantling of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's efforts to "green" the chamber's cafeteria, specifically with compostable and/or recyclable utensils, plates and cups.

And, of course, Allen being Allen, it wasn't really just about plastic knives:

[Dan] Lungren's stick-a-biodegradable-fork-in-it (if you can) stance toward a linchpin of Pelosi's grand green plan marks the latest skirmish in a lifestyle war that may on its surface seem purely partisan: GOP global-warming skeptics versus a Gaia-worshipping Democratic Party. But I'd say the battle lines are really between an elite determined to impose upon a captive populace its notions of what is good for it — cost be damned — and the populace itself, which would rather not be coerced.

Aha! It's the "Don't tread on me" and "Give me liberty or give me death" patriots vs. Big Brother and his tree-huggers, served up cafeteria-style.

Or, as Allen concludes:

The years from 2006 through 2010, starting with the Democratic takeover of the House and ending with the party's rout after two years of Barack Obama's presidency, were four years of an effort by a know-it-all liberal elite to impose sweeping and extreme social and fiscal measures on a centrist-to-right public: four years of turkey escabeche, so to speak.

Now, with a GOP House and divided government, there seems to be a return to normalcy, and it's beginning with the promise of knives and forks that work.

On Friday, The Times' news side caught up with the prescient Allen with its own story.

Seems the tree-huggers aren't giving up without a fight, the story says:

The replacement spoons, knives, forks and cups are creating quite a stir, dividing lawmakers largely along party lines.

Democratic staffers are talking about boycotting the cafeterias, which serve about 230,000 meals a month, mostly to staff members but also to the public. The issue sprouted a Facebook page, "Stop the Styrofoam Invasion: Bring cardboard back to the House Cafeteria."

Darn those environmentalists! It's like playing whack-a-mole –- just when you think you have them under control, they pop back up.

The key point, though, is Allen's line about "a return to normalcy." It is what divides Democrats and Republicans on so many issues, from energy to healthcare to, yes, compostable cutlery.

Republicans love Ronald Reagan because he promised them "normalcy" -- that things could be as  they once were: America as the greatest country; Americans as the greatest people; carefree days of driving big cars, consuming like no tomorrow; a military second to none, cost-be-damned, and so on.

The trouble is, like it or not, the country changes.

For example, on Thursday The Times' headline read: "Hispanic population tops 50 million in U.S."

The Hispanic population in the United States grew by 43% in the last decade, surpassing 50 million and accounting for about 1 out of 6 Americans, the Census Bureau reported Thursday.

Analysts seized on data showing that the growth was propelled by a surge in births in the U.S., rather than immigration, pointing to a growing generational shift in which Hispanics continue to gain political clout and, by 2050, could make up a third of the U.S. population.

What will be those Americans' "normalcy"?  I doubt it will be Allen's, or even Reagan's.   

So, perhaps, as the new House leadership says, the old "green" cafeteria program wasn't working.  Perhaps it wasn't saving money.

But I'm sure of a couple of things: Getting back to "normalcy" isn't going to solve our landfill problems. 

And those who live in the past don't have a future.

ALSO:

The GOP strikes back

Michael Kinsley: You can't cut that

Immigration reform: The Utah path

Doyle McManus: The GOP's Libya dilemma

--Paul Whitefield

Photo: Packages of Family Dollar Stores Inc. styrofoam cups. Credit: Jin Lee/Bloomberg

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