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Posted at 12:26 PM ET, 09/21/2011

Is that $16 muffin over the top?


An artist’s rendition of the muffin in question. Okay, less “an artist’s rendition” than “something I made in MS Paint earlier.”
The news that the Justice Department spent more than $16 on a single muffin has had everyone up in arms.

Even I was a bit alarmed.

But my mistrust of wasteful government spending is only exceeded by my respect for the muffin as an institution.

If there is anything on that list that might not have been a waste of money, it’s the muffin.

The muffin has generally been consigned to an unglamorous corner of the baked-good world. It is entirely supplanted in the popular consciousness and on baking shows by the glamorous, urban cupcake. The cupcake is Jackie O to the muffin’s Mamie Eisenhower. The term “muffin top” for that region of your belly that spills over your jeans is both cause and consequence. Even as a form of address, they lose out. “Cupcake!” is a sexist way of addressing your secretary. “Muffin!” is how you call your cat to your bedside as you die alone, a spinster.

I have no idea how you would make a single muffin cost $16. My best guess is that someone bought a cupcake and thought it would seem more wholesome if government dollars went to muffins instead.

How do you make a muffin that costs $16? Maybe the muffin contains a replica of Barack Obama’s birth certificate made of solid gold, a Phoenix egg (from Phoenix, Ariz.), and the tear of a unicorn who didn’t understand market forces and thought $8 seemed reasonable. At some point in the process you hired a Lyndon Johnson impersonator to move his hands over the muffins, just for luck.

Besides, muffins have applications. If people fail to eat all of them, wait a few days and they make wonderful projectiles that can be used to stun enemy combatants. That is how most of my batches of muffins wind up.

But my point is: It was probably worth it. Muffins are hard-working and all-American, unless they’re English. Sometimes they contain bran, which is more than can be said for cupcakes.

But this isn’t about the waistline. It’s about the bottom line.

The other items in the litany of wasteful government spending were exactly that — $7.32 on boeuf wellington amuse-bouches? An amuse-bouche is French for “something your mouth might like but your stomach won’t notice is there.” If it were any larger, they would have called it tapas and charged you $30. But $10 for a single cookie? $8.24 for a cup for coffee? Who spends that, other than me, every day, because otherwise the latte fails to meet my specifications?

No, the muffin is the only defensible expenditure in the bunch. Say what you will about it, at least it wasn’t a cupcake.

And if they need to get it out of their system, there’s always that $600 (post-inflation) toilet seat at the Pentagon.

By  |  12:26 PM ET, 09/21/2011

Tags:  Muffins, Justice

 
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