Whether you believe the involvement of the federal government in our every day lives is a good thing or a bad thing I’m betting we can all agree on one thing. Lawmakers in Washington continue to misspend our money, big time. There ought to be a law but there isn’t.
Pork Barrell politics is still alive and well in the United States Congress with a bi-partisan group of congressmen and women still elbowing each other to win special interest money for their state while decrying the practice to voters. This matters because our federal deficit is now over $21 trillion dollars. Yep, that’s trillion, with a T.
According to OpenTheBooks.com, a non-profit website devoted to transparency in federal spending, our elected representatives in Congress doled out $585 billion in grants in fiscal year 2016, the bulk of it going for Health and Human Services programs. Naturally, some are much needed, like those grants given for more cancer research and programs like Head Start program and those for needy senior citizens. But, some grants just make me angry.
- Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California managed to get $1.5 million from HHS for the California Prostitutes Education Project. This program “seeks to teach prostitutes about safer sex and needle use in a way that is respectful to its clients’ lifestyle and choices.” Say what? Selling sex for money is illegal in California and 48 other states so, in effect, HHS gave money to promote criminal activity.
- Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama got NASA to give $2.5 million to his state’s Space Science Exhibit Commission. The money will go to produce “Space Racers,” a cartoon series for kids that features characters who zoom off on galactic adventures. So, there aren’t enough cartoons and action films out there already?
- Congresswoman Terri Sewell, also of Alabama, helped the University of Alabama get $183,750 to develop a computer program to teach kids how to safely cross the street – in China! I’m thinking the Chinese should probably do that themselves.
- Congressman Adam Kinzinger secured $173,089 for Northern Illinois University so they could conduct a month-long study of “radically diverse bisexual women” who documented what they perceived to be micro-aggressions against them in a daily e-diary. $173,000 for a four-week study seems a bit expensive, doesn’t it?
- Congressman Joseph Kennedy III of Massachusetts won more than $200,000 for a program to study condom design and, specifically, the “lack of lubrication” which is currently, “a universal drawback.” Huh? Aren’t there plenty of condom companies already doing this kind of research?
And, speaking of private companies getting government largess, why did $3.2 billion in taxpayer funded subsides go to firms on the Fortune 100 list? One example: Boeing got $774 million in federal grants over three years. Yet it reported $95 billion in sales revenue in 2016. Shouldn’t Boeing pay for its own research?
And, could we please take a look at what the federal government doles out in farm subsidies? In the last fiscal year Uncle Sam handed out $13.2 billion in farm supports. That included awards to dead people, celebrities and bigwigs in places like Beverly Hills and Malibu in California, Fishers Island and Palm Beach in Florida, and as columnist Deroy Murdock wrote, other places “that have not seen a tractor since they last staged Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!” Rocker Bruce Springsteen, NBA great Scottie Pippen and racial rabble rouser Louis Farrakhan are among those getting big government checks. Like they need the money, right?
Universities, both public and private, were bathed in federal grants too – to the tune of $35 billion in 2016. An example in that category: Johns Hopkins University got $770 million for various research projects even though it takes in $6 billion in annual revenues and has another $9 billion in assets. To quote the OpenTheBooks report on this, “Johns Hopkins received a grant for nearly $30 million to ‘strengthen the health system in Mozambique’ and six separate grants totaling $5.2 million supporting male circumcision in African countries.”
Look, I want kids in China to cross the street safely. I want Mozambique to have a strong health system and I want real American farmers to get aid while struggling to produce our food supply. But at a time when our national debt is crushing us can’t we forego some of these wildly unnecessary payouts? I say yes.
OpenTheBooks website promises to reveal all federal spending, in real time, state by state, so Americans can make up their minds about whether elected officials are playing politics with our tax dollars.
There’s a lot of talk about draining the swamp in Washington, especially with the mid-term elections coming up. I think these grants and subsides are a great place to start to pull the plug.