The news hit me like a rolled-up newspaper to the side of the head.
According to The Washington Times, Robert Davi, a tough-guy Hollywood actor, and Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.), an alleged conservative, did something tough guys and conservatives don't often do.
They collaborated to get a bill onto the floor of the U.S. House seeking a $3,500 annual tax deduction for pet expenses.
I love animals. I still mist up when I think of the time my dog Jingles ran off in the '70s. But Americans have lost their bearings where their pets are concerned.
According to the American Pet Products Association, we spend $45 billion a year on our pets -- that's up 5 percent over last year, despite a nasty recession. Nearly $20 billion alone is spent on dog grub -- including the expensive "gourmet" stuff. That's up 5 percent, too.
And since the pet food recalls of 2007, says ABC News, here's another trend: More pets are enjoying home cooking.
If Rover overeats, no problem. There are doggie personal trainers now. There are doggie gyms, doggie aerobics classes and doggie weight-loss programs. (Biscuit Watchers?)
If Rover is having behavioral problems -- or perhaps, he is depressed -- the dog psychiatrist will tend to his woes. ("What's that, boy? You see a cat in the inkblot?")
Here's something Americans are doing for their pets that some won't do for themselves: buying health insurance.
Of course, despite all the pampering and care, our pets will eventually succumb to old age. When they pass, a whole industry is ready to assist.
There are doggie funeral ceremonies and eulogies now. ("Rover was a good shepherd, he shall not want, as he lies down in green pastures ...")
Pet deaths are announced in pet obituaries. ("Buster is survived by his emotionally distraught owner and his favorite toy, Squeaky.")
And let us not forget another growth industry: pet cemeteries, complete with pet headstones. ("Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, if only Rover had seen that bus.")
And now tax deductions for pet owners?
Davi argues that pets are good for us. They bring down our blood pressure and lift our spirits. A tax deduction would encourage pet ownership.
He says the deduction would be good for the economy. People would spend more on their pets -- a needed boost to retail spending.
It is true, too, that the recession is causing animal shelters to see decreases in budgets at the same time they see a surge in surrendered pets -- a deduction might cause more people to adopt.
These are all fair considerations, but they miss the larger point: We have to stop letting our emotions rule our heads where public policy is concerned.
Look, our tax code is an incredible mess precisely because well-intentioned people got their special breaks added in.
Now it takes a case of bourbon and a busload of CPAs to file our taxes every year.
Our emotions, skillfully exploited, have brought us all kinds of government programs that have bloated the budget and exploded the deficit.
If we have any hope of staving off a fiscal nightmare, we've got to keep our wits about us -- we've got to put logic and reason back in charge.
Speaking of nightmares, when your dog's paws twitch as he sleeps, he isn't having one.
What is a dog nightmare anyway, asks comedian Gary Shandling.
Your dog dreams he's drinking out of a toilet bowl and the lid falls on his head?
Tom Purcell, a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. E-mail him at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.