The government is ruining little kids’ big days

By Jayson Jacoby September 14, 2012 09:09 am

Never mind what President Obama wants to do to your tax bill.

The man is up to something vastly more insidious than squandering your nest egg.

He has ruined thousands of little kids’ birthday parties across our fair land this summer.

And who knows what’ll happen with Halloween and Christmas coming up.

I’m serious.

Kids are being turned into social pariahs because their soirees lack the necessary and expected accoutrements.

Helium balloons.

The culprit in this scandal is the federal government.

And we know who’s in charge of that.


While the president jets around the country, exhorting Americans to give him four more years in the White House, the U.S. Federal Helium Reserve is forcing children to make do with balloons that dangle limply from their strings, like blackberries on vines overburdened with fruit.

You didn’t know there was a Federal Helium Reserve?

It was news to me, too.

The name of the place has a sinister connotation — except that it’s hard for even shadowy government installations to be truly sinister when the people who work there talk like Daffy Duck.

Apparently it’s a real place, though.

The reserve, which contains about 30 percent of the world’s helium supply, is near Amarillo, Texas, according to Popular Mechanics magazine, a publication that presumably employs actual scientists who know about such things as helium and where it’s kept.

The feds, with their fat fingers pinching the supply of this element, also set its price.

This spring the government announced that the cost of helium, which increased by just 75 cents per thousand cubic feet last year, would skyrocket this year by $8.25.

This major price hike is due in part to the feds paying off the debt they rang up while amassing the helium reserve in the profligate 1960s, according to Popular Mechanics.

Little wonder, then, that birthday balloons these days, containing mainly boring nitrogen and oxygen, have about as much buoyancy as a hunk of lead.

I suppose parents could go retro, so to speak, and fill balloons with hydrogen, once the element of choice for elevating items much heavier than a scrap of mylar with “Happy Birthday!” printed on it.

The Hindenburg, for instance.

Of course that didn’t end well.

And I daresay no parent yearns to celebrate junior’s milestone with a party that concludes with these two phrases:

“OK, blow out the candles,” followed immediately by, “Oh, the humanity!”


The wind went around to the northwest Sunday evening and treated us, for the first part of the week, to a preview of autumn.

I thought of it as a treat, anyway.

It was refreshing to step outside and feel the bracing breeze on my cheeks, as soothing as a splash of cold water on the forehead after mowing the grass in the sullen heat of an August afternoon.

Others, I’m sure, were rather less enchanted by the prospects of frostbitten tomatoes and the coming season, when night falls early and chill.

(Although I didn’t exactly relish scraping ice from my windshield.)

My only other complaint, though, hardly qualifies as such.

I had to quickly revamp my familiar routine with the windows.

During summer I await each evening that moment when the inside and outside temperatures collide, jolting me into action.

I rush to yank the miniblind cords and slide open the windows that were, that morning, slammed shut to keep out the heat.

Our fall-like interlude this week forced me to reverse this schedule.

Come dusk I closed the windows, lest the kids awaken in the wee hours, pleading for extra blankets and wondering what they’d done to deserve such maltreatment.

When I was home for lunch I re-opened the windows to usher in the fresh breeze.

Like I said, a trifling adjustment.

And financially speaking a welcome one, this thrifty purgatory between the wallet-draining drone of the air-conditioner and the long impending reign of the furnace.