The holiday season is not the easiest time for a Washington opinion-maker. If the truth be known, those of us who stay in town can easily be recognized because we're the ones sitting around in restaurants and bars sucking our thumbs.
Whereas during the height of the political season we refuse to speak to anyone but the highest Administration officials, we are condemned until Congress comes back, to quote "sources close to the Kennedy campaign" (a Dartmouth student volunteer home on vacation), "a spokesperson for Jody Powell" (one of the White House telephone operators), "an informed diplomatic contact" (a taxi driver with a foreign accent) and "a senior advisor to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance" (the head waiter of the Executive dining room).
Thumb-sucking is the hardest type of writing because it requires even more imagination than the most respected Washington opinion-maker is usually expected to exercise.
The first thing we have to do is go through all the old press releases that we discarded with contempt when they were dropped in front of our doors. This flotsam, which we wisely saved, suddenly has more value than gold.
For example, my secretary Jeannie, who gets very nervous when I start sucking my thumb, was wise enough to save a press release from the Department of Agriculture, informing the media that a U.S. District Court in Oregon ordered egg producer David Van Eyk, of Myrtle Point, Ore., to pay the American Egg Board $744 for failing to file reports on how many eggs he handled. He also was fined for not remitting the required assessment of 5 cents for each 30 dozen eggs he marketed, thus violating the Egg Research and Consumer Information Act, which is administered by an 18 member American Egg Board, appointed by the secretary of agriculture and monitored by the Department's Agricultural Marketing Service.
Now when I first stepped on this press release two months ago, as I was leaving for the day, I didn't realize the significance of it.
It was only between Christmas and New Year that it dawned on me that white-collar crime in the egg industry is rampant and could be one of the biggest problems the country will face in the '80s.
While Mr. Van Eyk was caught and punished, the question that arises is how many egg handlers in this country are getting away with murder? By failing to send in the 5 cents for each 30 dozen eggs they have sold, the cost to the American Egg Board could be in the millions -- perhaps billions -- and since the money collected is used for research to develop new markets for eggs, the consumers are the big losers in what law enforcement officials now describe as one of the largest American shell games in the nation today.
To this observer, the problem seems to be that the lack of strong enforcement of the Egg Research and Consumer Information Act has encouraged egg handlers to ignore the law. It is another dramatic example of the malaise in this country. The criminal butter and egg man will continue to lie about how many eggs have passed through his hands because he knows that even if he is caught, the fine will be minimal as opposed to the magnitude of the windfall profits that can be made.
Unless these unscrupulous dealers arestopped in their tracks by a beefed-up Egg Enforcement Agency, none of us will be safe on the streets or in our homes.
The time has come to get tough with every egg handler in the country. If the American Egg Board can't do it, they should all resign and turn the job over to people who can.