Tuesday, August 28, 2012
The Government Gu$her
At a time when the biggest issues are the economy, the reform of entitlement programs, the national debt and deficit, many Americans are blissfully unaware of the machine that keeps their taxpayer dollars flowing from every federal government department and agency. Even with a $16 trillion dollar debt, the money gushes forth.
In a Wall Street Journal column by William McGurn about government spending, he says that “Surely the real issue here is whether people have any meaningful choice. Because government funding tends to crowd out private funding, it leaves fewer and more expensive options in its wake. Generally that means you have to be as rich as Warren Buffett or living in the most inaccessible Ozarks backwoods to be in a position to forego federal dollars.”
Point well taken; older Americans, having paid into the involuntary system, understandably expect to receive Social Security checks every month and the same applies to having Medicare cover escalating healthcare costs. Many younger Americans are going to college on government loans. There is a plethora of government programs that redistribute taxpayer dollars on all manner of worthy or dubious recipients.
The most troubling aspect of government largess is the political factor. I was reminded of this upon receiving a news release from the U.S. Forest Service announcing $3.5 million to support community forests. One might reasonably ask why, at a time when the national debt is $16 trillion dollars why the government is spending money on community forests.
On closer examination, it appears that the grants are going to communities in states that Democrats need in terms of their Electoral College votes. Grants went to communities in Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, notable swing states, as well as dependable ones such as Washington, Vermont, and New Hampshire.
Then, too, it should be noted that every U.S. State maintains offices in Washington, D.C. to ensure it receives the government grants being handed out for all aspects of their needs, much of which is dependent on federal funding. Collectively, the states are over $4 trillion in debt; much of which is tied to public worker’s pensions and other benefits.
The money gusher also explains the exponential growth in the lobbying industry. A 2005 Washington Post article noted that “The number of registered lobbyists in Washington has more than doubled since 2000 to more than 34,750 while the amount that lobbyists charge their new clients has increased by as much as 100 percent. Only a few other businesses have enjoyed greater prosperity in an otherwise fitful economy.”
Wikipedia says that “By 2011, one estimate of overall lobbying spending nationally was $30+ billion in 2010.” Every industry, profession, enterprise and special interest group in America seeks representation and a piece of the pie.
There isn’t a single federal government department and agency that does not engage fulltime in the redistribution of wealth via grants, some of which would be commendable if the nation was not facing economic collapse.
In August, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced a $68 million in grants for HIV/AIDS care for women, infants, children, and youth. It also announced awards up to $4.6 million in youth suicide prevention programs to tribes throughout South Dakota.
In August the Department of Education announced more than $2.5 million for seven student support services projects to help students succeed in high education.
Over at the Department of Transportation the Federal Highway Administration announced more than $363 million in funding for various highway projects. When they invited states and cities to apply for federal funding from twelve different grant programs, they received nearly 1,500 requests totaling almost $2.5 billion. Grants have gone to all fifty states, plus Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia.
To push its agenda, the Environmental Protection Agency hands out millions in grants for Community Action for Renewed Environment, Education, Environmental Justice, Student Programs, the National Clean Diesel campaign, and other comparable programs.
Every single federal department, Labor, Justice, Interior, et cetera, is engaged in this largess of programs, including the State Department which oversees foreign aid. It is all funded not only by taxes, but by continuous borrowing—forty cents of every dollar spent, millions every day.
Congress is so shy of cutting any spending program it initiated a doomsday program, the automatic sequestration, the results of which are supposed to spread the pain. It is a failure to exercise the oversight Congress is supposed to exercise. It is the abandonment of one of its most important functions.
The hope is that a Republican Congress and White House will seriously reform the nation’s entitlement programs; literally one half of all the money is committed to be spent before Congress arrives in the Capitol Building to do anything else.
The reality is that our huge federal government will continue to disperse all the money it collects and borrows to justify its existence.
© Alan Caruba, 2012