I was reading Roger Simon’s piece on “things the government could do without” — in which he suggests taking the axe to the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, among other things, as a start — and I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the things government agencies spend our money on. In just a few minutes of browsing on the Department of Housing and Urban Development website, I wandered into the grant-making section and found these nuggets of potential cost-cutting goodness:
- $5,000,000 for a Farmers Market Promotion Program, which provides grants of up to $100,000 “to help improve and expand domestic farmers markets, roadside stands, community-supported agriculture programs, agri-tourism activities, and other direct producer-to-consumer market opportunities.” (Funding Opportunity Number: USDA-AMS-FMPP-2010).
- $492,000 for “an institution of higher education to conduct research on the national economic impact of all types of cooperatives.” (Funding Opportunity Number: RDBCP-10-04-REIC).
- $5,000,000 to “Develop a program to involve youth in cooperative efforts in cultural and natural resource conservation related to Reclamation projects on a Nationwide basis.” (Funding Opportunity Number: R10SS40Y29).
- $75,000 for a “Fishing Kids Events” in which urban kids get to “fish in group’s [sic] on-shore for up to 60 minutes receiving instruction by experienced anglers, or guides, on angling techniques and environmental stewardship.”
- $3,000,000 to study “the dynamic relationships between behavioral and social environment factors on the one hand and the basic mechanisms of sleep-wake and circadian regulation and function on the other.” But they don’t want any “research on or development of treatments or interventions for disorders of sleep or circadian rhythms.” Too useful, I guess. (Funding Opportunity Numbers: RFA-HD-11-101, RFA-HD-11-102).
- $6,000,000 for “funding and technical assistance to catalyze the implementation of locally-driven projects to remove dams and other river barriers, in order to benefit living marine and coastal resources, particularly diadromous fish.” (Funding Opportunity Number: NOAA-NMFS-HCPO-2011-2002644).
- $1,900,000 “to advance research on basic processes and mechanisms of self-regulation” of cognition, emotion, and behavior. (Funding Opportunity Number: RFA-AG-11-010).
- $150,000 for “a cooperator to develop a framework that identifies the overarching principles as well as the elements or key characteristics of organizations and communities that foster digital inclusion,” whatever that PC gobbledygook means. (Funding Opportunity Number: FDI-2010).
- $30,000 for a project “designed to connect students to local natural resources, to foster emotional ties with the local environment, and to provdie [sic] guidane [sic] for practicing heaalthy [sic] habits for personal fitness and health.
- $100,000 in “grants for K-12 teachers, enhanced online wildlife conservation resources for high school teachers, Youth Conservation Engagement grants and development of conservation career profiles for youth.” (Funding Opportunity Number: FWS-NCTC-2010-15).
- $3,750,000 to study “how newly learned, effortful, and goal-directed behaviors transition to less effortful, automatic, and essentially non-goal-directed behaviors that are more easily maintained over time.” (Funding Opportunity Number: RFA-HL-11-035).
In under an hour, I was able to identify $25,497,000 in wasteful federal grant spending (and I tried to avoid “stimulus” grants altogether).
Don’t get me wrong — a case could be made that every one of these programs has some merit. And if they were pursued through donated dollars, I could support many of them.
But taxpayers, not voluntary donors, are funding all of this stuff. I see nothing in the Constitution about providing federal support for farmers markets, sleep deprivation research, fishing outings, or developing conservation career profiles for kids.
And yes, $25,497,000 is chump change in our federal budget. But these examples are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, the low-hanging fruit I could gather in just an hour. This is before taking a hard look at programs taking a much larger bite out of taxpayers’ wallets.
Throw in the entire National Endowment for the Arts ($167,500,000 in FY 2010), the National Endowment for the Humanities ($171,315,000 in FY 2010), and federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting ($420,000,000 in FY 2010), and we are starting to talk real money.
Again, I enjoy NPR, This Old House, many forms of art, and so on. In fact, my wife and I attend the symphony and plays, we are members of the Denver Art Museum and Botanical Gardens, and she is on the Boards of two art-related nonprofits. But I do not think the government has any business funding art, tv, or radio. If an audience wants it, they will support it. If not, then why should taxpayers?
If we are to get spending under control and rein in the deficit, we need leadership that will take a close look at the budget and make hard choices about what is really necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of the U.S. and its citizens. We need to cut spending, not raise taxes.