Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Blind Money and Wasted Resources

Posted by bsflag2007 on Friday, December 15, 2006

The printing habits and policies of the US Treasury are not “local political issues” , true – and this story could be debated from a number of angles, like… the lengths society ought to go to to accomodate the disabled, the cost/benefit analysis of making accomodations, the politics of establishing “privileged subgroups”…. but what interests me is an aspect that has many local parallels — the “government” making illogical, bizarre, or even factually unsupportable legal arguments.  Wasting communal resources on arguments that are offensive to decency, logic and intelligence.

You may have heard about the recent decision:  “U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled … that the Treasury Department is violating the law by keeping all paper money the same size and feel, preventing blind people from distinguishing the amount…. and ordered the government to come up with a way to tell bills apart.”

For reasons I would like to understand,   the Bush administration  is appealing the ruling  which requires “the federal government redesign the nation’s paper money to help blind people differentiate between denominations of bills”.

“Officially” the arguments are:

-changing denominations would be too costly

-blind people can use credit or debit cards

– portable currency readers exist to help distinguish the bills.

– the changes would  impose an “undue burden.”

– making any changes to the currency would interfere with mandates to guard against counterfeiting and would cost too much.

They also note that there are many practical considerations to making substantial changes to the bills, including ATM Machines,  vending machines – really any current machine that uses paper US money.

Ignoring for a moment any arguments based on fairness, access, etc…. let’s just look at the government’s actual arguments.

First,  the current plan is to redesign paper money every 7-9 years to thwart counterfeiters anyway –  the ruling doesn’t ask for “immediate” redesign — and, the Advocates for the Blind have been asking for this accomodation for the past 30 years.   Several redesign cycles have come and gone — including completely retooling the mint(s) and reformulating the paper…so the “costs too much to redesign”  argument doesn’t really pass the smell test.  How about just agree to implement the design recommendations in the next round?

Which leads us to supposed argument 2 — existing machines, etc couldn’t handle “various sized bills” like other countries have.  Well…. ok…. forget the fact that “we have the technology” – it can be done.

The bills do not HAVE to be different sizes to be distinguishable.  There are other recommended modifications which can be made that would not impact existing machines based on “size”.

“The American Council for the Blind has submitted several alternatives  …. including embossing, holes punched in the paper”  in addition to the option of different-sized bills for different denominations.

Again, alterations, software upgrades, etc are fairly routine – and when was the last time you saw a 30 year old ATM machine?  Upgrades, new software, etc  are necessary when  the other “redesign” cycles are implemented —- is it a serious argument that one group of changes is significantly more costly than another?  No substantial change is ever accomplished with a blink of an eye or the twitch of a nose.  They are almost always gradual — even the replacement of old bills is a gradual process.  So why pretend this one would have to be any different?

And then there is the “portable reading devices” argument — ok, the blind folks can carry around an appliance, and while we’re all waiting in line behind him, our blind friend can run each bill through it to make sure he is not being cheated by the cashier…. that won’t be inconvenient or embarrassing for anyone.  But let’s ignore that aspect for a moment…. once you have eliminated the first two illogical arguments… is an extra appliance even “on the table” anymore?

And finally – is the government really making the argument that blind people should use credit or debit cards instead of cash?  My first thought was ” …. then let them eat cake…” – but seriously…. how out of touch with real life can the goverment officials be?

Is it too obvious to need to point out that not every vendor in the country takes “plastic” … that in times of emergency/power outages/ or any time I don’t have any cash … the “satellites go down” or whatever computer malfunction renders the debit/credit processor useless  makes using a credit card vitually impossible?  … that “cash is king” …. that taxi drivers, the bus, the hotdog guy —- and the nail salon — don’t take credit cards?

Forget about any arguments based on “equal access”, compassion, etc —- and focus only on the practical arguments the government has “tried” to make…. where is the legitimate argument for continuing to refuse to include these modifications in our future planning?

Why does “our government” waste the time and resources of the judicial system – “our” resources – to fight to refuse to make these “no skin off your nose” modifications.

Our local government- the school system anyway – also indulges in expensive, wasteful, legal excercises based on specious, illogical or unsupportable arguments.  Where is the justification?

I don’t get it.  Can anyone out there help?

Cindy Vaillancourt

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One Response to “Blind Money and Wasted Resources”

  1. Son said

    Hello mates, how is all, and what you want to say about
    this article, in my view its truly awesome in support of me.

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