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Why the $16 muffin story sells so well


It's a familiar story: government extravagance in trivial matters. This time it's the revelation that the Justice Department paid $16 apiece for muffins served at a conference. What makes stories like this so popular is that they allow ordinary folks to feel morally superior to public employees (or, better yet, politicians).

 Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) complained: "The Justice Department appears to be blind to the economic realities our country is facing."  The implication is that buying cheaper muffins -- or muffin tops, as on "Seinfeld" -- would appreciably reduce the deficit or provide more aid for the unemployed. Actually, the practical effect of the overcharging is minuscule. It's the symbolism that matters.

I know, $16 here, $16 there, and it all adds up to real money. But the price tag covers not only the cost of the muffins but the joyful indignation citizens will experience reading about them.


Meddling with monetary policy

War on terror: What are we paying for?

Full Tilt Poker: Commenters, put on your poker faces

--Michael McGough

Photo credit: Jay L. Clendenin  / Los Angeles Times


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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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