A hairy subject to debate

Anyone who has seen my face on this blog or elsewhere knows that my face is partially covered by facial hair. (Since the winter of 1992–93, for those who didn’t know.)

Seeking to improve its public profile, the American Mustache Institute introduced a proposal it called the Stimulus To Allow Critical Hair Expenses — yes, STACHE — Act, a tax deduction of up to $250 for, yes, facial hair expenses:

The STACHE Act is based on the celebrated white paper “Mustached Americans And The Triple Bottom Line.”  … Written by noted tax policy professor Dr.John Yeutter, Ph.D., CFP, Associate Professor of Accounting and Tax Policy at Northeastern State University, it argues that the social and environmental benefits to mustache growth and maintenance provide a service to the U.S. economy.

“Given the clear link between the growing and maintenance of mustaches and incremental income … mustache maintenance costs qualify for and should be considered as a deductible expense …,” Dr. Yeutter wrote.

Said $250 tax deduction would cover such expenses as:

  • Mustache and beard trimming instruments;
  • Mustache wax and weightless conditioning agents;
  • Facial hair coloring products (for men and women over 43 years of age);
  • Bacon;
  • Mustache combs and mirrors;
  • DVD collections of “Magnum P.I.” and “Smokey and the Bandit”;
  • Mustache insurance (now required by state law in Alabama, Oregon, Maine, New Mexico, and Puerto Rico);
  • Billy clubs or bodyguards to keep women away as a mustache increases good looks by an estimated 38 percent;
  • Little black books and jumbo packages of kielbasa sausage;
  • Burt Reynolds wallet-sized photos.

I don’t know how many people AMI expected to read Yeutter’s white paper. I did. The Environmental Impact part claims:

Mustache grooming aids are largely natural and environmentally friendly, and do not contribute to either ozone depletion or global warming as is the case with other hair care products.

In addition, the cookie duster can act as a natural warming device, allowing the Mustached American to reduce dependencies on artificial heating devices and save vast quantities of energy during cooler months. Further, proper mustache maintenance reduces solid waste, as not only are the vibrissae themselves not deposited into landfills, but also a significant amount of disposable razors are saved from dangerous misuse.

Other environmental benefits of the appropriate growth and grooming of mustaches include inarguable proof that owning and operating a proper mustache reduces shaving, thus reducing the use of water, shaving cream, and environmentally harmful chemicals found in after-shave lotions and tonics. Additionally, reduced nasal drainage caused by breathing harmful pathogens are effectively filtered through mustache fur, thus limiting the amount of dangerous carbon dioxide reaching the ozone layer.

If you’re not convinced by now of the seriousness of AMI’s proposal, consider that AMI further proposed to publicize the STACHE Act by holding a Million Mustache March on Washington on April 1.

The STACHE Act is of little use to me, since I use neither mustache wax nor “weightless conditioning agents” nor “facial hair coloring products,” and I’m really not interested in the DVDs or the Burt Reynolds photos. (However, I would take the bacon and kielbasa deductions.)

But to demonstrate that truth is stranger than fiction:

After barnstorming the Nation’s Capitol in support of the proposed Stache Act (details and white paper here), the office of of [sic] Maryland 6th district U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett informed the American Mustache Institute that the congressman has begun the process of ensuring the ‘Stache Act becomes law by passing the proposal to the House Ways and Means Committee for study — an essential first step for tax legislation.

The Weekly Standard adds:

The surprising thing is not that a congressman—Rep. Bartlett, a Republican—would support the creation of another tax loophole. …

Instead, it was odd that Bartlett would even participate in what clearly seems to be an elaborate parody of Washington, D.C., think tanks and advocacy groups—and Congress. (The group is, after all, holding a rally on Capitol Hill on April 1.)

So I called Bartlett’s office to see if something so silly could possibly be real. Sure enough, it is—but there’s a wrinkle: Congressman Bartlett was never aware that the bill had been referred to the committee in his name. …

“Congressman Bartlett has referred their proposal to the Ways and Means Committee, without commenting on the merit of the bill,” Lisa Wright, Bartlett’s press secretary, told me. The House Ways and Means Committee, Wright explained, has jurisdiction since the Stache Act is a tax bill.

Wright was then asked that since Bartlett referred the bill with comment, would she be able to comment on her boss’s opinion of the proposed legislation. “Congressman Bartlett merely referred it without recommendation,” Wright told me after a big pause.

Indeed, Wright conceded, when asked whether it’s a waste of the congressman’s time to be toying with legislative stunts like this one, that Bartlett actually knew nothing about the bill he supposedly had referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.

“I did not raise it with him,” Wright admitted. “Actually it’s a staff referral . . . I did it, I referred it.” When asked whether Congressman Bartlett knew about the referral, Wright sheepishly said, “I don’t think I told him yet.”

That was posted Tuesday. One day later:

UPDATE: Lisa Wright called Wednesday morning to clarify that she only referred the mustache proposal to the Ways and Means Committee, and did not actually send a bill to the committee. In a follow-up message left on my voicemail, Wright says, “Please check Thomas to look for the Stache Act. You will not find it. It does not exist. There is no bill. There is no legislation. And an advocacy group that characterizes it as legislation—and you used that term with me—does not make it legislation.”

I think Wright’s next job evaluation with Bartlett might not go so well.

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