It isn’t so much that I’m against balancing the budget. It’s that I think firing public employees is a lousy way to create jobs. I’ll say this for that strategy though: it beats throwing grandma from the train, which is the other big budget-cutting plan Republicans have in store for us.

If you insist on getting rid of some dead weight in the federal budget, however, this is the way to do it: Cut the Justice Department’s budget.

Recent events show that the department has more money than it needs and way too much time on its hands.

It’s bad enough that they’ve spent an estimated $6 million proving that Barry Bonds was evasive about his steroid use to a federal grand jury once upon a time.

Think about that. They couldn’t prove that he’d actually lied about it, just that he was evasive. Bad Barry. Go in the corner and write “I will not be evasive” 100 times on the blackboard.

Goodbye, 6 million dollars.

Now they have attempted to prosecute Roger Clemens, another baseball legend, for lying to Congress about his alleged steroid use.

Lying to Congress! I didn’t know that was a crime. I thought Congress was a no-fault zone when it came to lying. If Mitch McConnell were held accountable for every time he lied in the halls of Congress, he’d be serving five consecutive life sentences by now.

I don’t know how much the Clemens trial, investigation, and so forth will cost. U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton declared a mistrial on July 14, and it’s not clear whether prosecutors can try again.

Even worse, there are reports of our Feds meeting with French officials to see if they can nail seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong for using steroids and lying about it.

(Photograph by Russell Bernice)

(Photograph by Russell Bernice)

That tops the Bonds fiasco: The government going after an authentic American hero — one who survived the direst of cancers — because he may have cheated in a bicycle race. In France.

What’s next, a federal strike force aimed at cleaning up professional wrestling in Bulgaria?

This has got to stop.

Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t condone steroid use or any other performance-enhancing drug. I take my drugs on the rocks and they don’t enhance performance. The ice cubes simply make my drinks more enjoyable.

But come on. Using drugs to help you play a game better isn’t the equivalent of selling crack cocaine to a teenager. Athletes have always tried to “enhance” their performance by means fair or foul. Do you think all those football players got to weigh 300 or 350 pounds eating Cheerios?

Ever hear of “greenies,” the stimulants of choice for baseball players of the 1970s and 1980s? There are even rumors that Tiger Woods might have bulked up with steroids or human growth hormones. And he’s a golfer, for crying out loud.

And the dirty little secret we share is that almost all of us would do as athletes do if we had the chance.

Oh you wouldn’t? Suppose you’re an accountant earning in the high five figures at a big corporation and a guy wearing a cape with a red silk lining walks up and offers you a pill that will turn you into another Bill Gates. Would you take it, even though it would give you an unfair competitive advantage over the other accountants in the shop?

You bet your sweet patootie you would. Unfair advantage is what capitalism is all about.

Are performance-enhancing drugs bad for you? I’m sure they are. So make them illegal and match the penalty to the crime. But don’t spend millions trying to catch athletes exercising their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

And don’t forget to cut the Justice Department’s budget. It might focus the lawyers there more seriously on the Wall Street brigands who stole billions from us.

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Donald Kaul

OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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