As The House Next Door noted a couple of days ago, Texas Republican State Senator Edmund Kuempel introduced to a bill to allow blind hunters to hunt using “laser sight, or lighted pointing instrument, which is forbidden for sighted hunters.” “This opens up the fun of hunting to additional people, and I think that’s great,” says Kuempel.
One can hardly dispute that it is “great” to expand the opportunities available to the blind and sight-impaired, though hunting seems like a rather odd place to take a stand (particularly in the state in which the fully-sighted vice president shot his friend in the face earlier this year). But, given that fifteen other states already have similar laws on the books, that this topic is treated sympathetically in the movie “Home Front” currently showing on Showtime, perhaps we might give Kuempel the benefit of the doubt that this is something worth fighting for.
It does seem somewhat ironic, however, that Kuempel’s bill coincides almost precisely with the announcement that Kuempel’s compatriots in the White House have asked a federal judge to overturn a lower-court ruling that the government must redesign the U.S. currency in order to help the visually-impaired to distinguish between bills of different denominations. Government lawyers are claiming that this court-mandated change is unnecessary (blind people can always carry around mechanical bill readers, or use credit cards) and too expensive: Cost estimates “ranged from $75 million in equipment upgrades and $9 million annual expenses for punching holes in bills to $178 million in one-time charges and $50 million annual expenses for printing bills of varying sizes.”
That is, of course, a lot of money, but even if we take the highest estimate, and average out the one-time charges over only a single year, it still comes to “only” $230 million, or $18 million/month over the first twelve months (and $4 million/month after that). These are certainly large sums of money, but they both pale in comparison with the $8 billion/month that the Iraq War is currently costing us. (Then again, to be honest, pretty much anything pales in comparison with $8 billion/month).
Furthermore, the $8 billion/month figure refers only to the official, budgeted war expenses, and does not take into account the long-term “indirect” expenses such as lifetime care for severely wounded veterans. How many veterans are wounded or severely wounded? It appears that hard numbers are very hard to come by, but one indication of the scale of the problem can be found in the fact that, as Fox News reports,
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2006, nearly 21 percent of the nearly 800,000 veterans discharged between Jan. 2002 and Aug. 2005 reported a service-connected disability. Fifty-eight percent of those had a 30 percent or higher disability rating.
The Fox article goes on to note that a majority of the soldiers in the 30 percet of higher disability rating group are “amputees, burn victims and” of course “blind soldiers.”
Blind soldiers, who will later presumably need to use money and perhaps even to hunt….