Strangled By Federal Funding Strings
This is kind of a “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” question. Over the past couple of years I’ve been wondering just where is the origin of “government off the rails?” Is it a top-down problem or a bottom-up problem? Who is setting the policies that are spending the country into a $14 trillion debt hole? Do local governments have any responsibility? Or do we voters just keep lashing out at the top echelons in DC?
Leading up to the 2010 elections, while Pelosi and Reid were passing bill after bill that were undermining freedom and loading us up with astronomical debt, I emailed, called, and wrote to congresspersons almost every day. By the time November rolled around, I realized this approach was futile. For myriad reasons, congressional Reps and Senators didn’t give a flying flip about what constituents had to say regarding legislation.
There are the lobbyists. And there are the influential non-profits. And there are the backroom deals. And there is the mainstream media turning everything upside down every day with bogus polls and lies.
So, I reasoned that unless I was one of the insiders in one of those groups, I really didn’t have anyone’s ear at the federal level. Congress is unresponsive to voters and “everyday constituents” back home, unless there is some gigantic mass of demonstration somewhere that gets on the nightly news shows. I concluded that I might as well have been throwing darts in a windstorm. (my husband has another way of putting that….ahem.)
So what is an American to do? If you can’t clean up the house in DC, then you might as well “Look Homeward Angel” and clean up the house in your own backyard. The sorry thing I have learned along this path is that our local government is all wrapped up in strings from the Federal government. Some of the strings are just filtered down through the states, but some of the strings are more direct than that. Either way, local government is being usurped by grant money and subsidies coming from the Feds. And local government officials are right in there playing that string-baby game, with their hands out begging for as much money as they can wrangle.
For instance, the so-called Stimulus Bill. If your local government wants Federal stimulus money to come dropping in by helicopter in bucketfuls, then your local government has to make steps to make your town or city look like it is all on board with Federal programs. You want a downtown improvement project? Make sure it is “green.” You want new business development? Make sure it is “infill” development. Where is the local autonomy in this picture? (Hint: Somewhere hiding out with Casper the Friendly Ghost or Somewhere Over the Rainbow.)
How does the local government fit the requirements for the money? The local city council will adopt “Vision Plans” that comply with the Federal grant requirements made up by the EPA, DOT, and HUD. This has been going on for years with “Block Grants.” Now it is much more pervasive than that, with plans for land use, local economic development, housing, energy usage, water control, and other supposed environmental initiatives. The Vision Plans for communities across the country come from the same source: Smart Growth. Smart Growth comes from the same source: the Federal government. The Federal government got Smart Growth from the United Nations, but that is whole other ball of wax and trail of strings.
This circumstance is prevalent in towns, cities, and counties all across the country. Finally, some towns, cities and counties are beginning to stand up and say, “No more of this!” This local response is still too rare, though. Why any response has taken so long is a mystery to me, but I think it is because it has taken the general population a while to catch on to the insidious creep of what Federal strings are doing to local autonomy. The amazing thing is that local government officials have only to tell the Federal government, “Thanks, but no thanks.” I can only wish that were the case.
One of the first occasions I had to learn about this top-down phenomenon was regarding a traffic intersection where a traffic light was requested by citizens to clear up rush hour jams. The City said, heck yes, the light was needed; but said they didn’t have any money for it. The estimated cost for the traffic light was $175,00. Lo and behold, the city traffic officials said, “but wait, but wait, the Feds have money … but only if you want a roundabout instead of a traffic light.” The cost of the roundabout: $250,000. So, twice the money from the Feds, and only if you do what they want – construct a roundabout instead of install a traffic light.
I’m not crazy about roundabouts, but that isn’t the point. The point is that the Feds used twice the money, taken from taxpayers in every other city and state in the country, to spend twice as much as was needed to solve the problem. Some of us objected, but the city went ahead with the roundabout. Thank you Arizona and Hawaii and Maine, or whoever the heck else shelled out taxes to help build a round-a-bout for our street here in small town North Carolina.
So where do we go for accountability? The Feds, or our own local officials? The answer has become clearer to me lately. If tea party folks want to clean up the fiscal mess this country is in, then tea party members are going to have to go after the mess in their own local governments. You see, the Feds would not be able to sink the nation with trillions in debt, if the local governments would stop being on the take. At least this would solve part of the problem, the part that addresses domestic policies. I, for one, don’t want string-babies paid for by people all over the country who have no idea what they are paying for. I don’t want Federal or State grants for a greenway, or recycling bins with RFID chips, or smart meters, or roundabouts, or biking trails, or parks, or light rail, or anything else. I want the Federal government to turn off the tap, but they won’t. As long as the greedy, smarmy, local officials are just deliriously happy to catch the bucketfuls of cash with string-babies, this country will never get on its feet and the debt will just keep piling up.
So, what do you think? Do you see this in your hometown or city? Can you do anything about the Federal and State revenue streams with strings reaching into your community? Does anyone know how to just say, “Thanks, but NO THANKS?”
Do you honestly think congress will ever get the message, as long as your local council or State government just keeps taking the money? Not a chance.
Cheryl Pass writes at My Tea Party Chronicle.
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