Your Tax Dollars At Work

Posted: January 2, 2009 in Bureauacracy, Government, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Housing, Money, Politics, Stupidity

The year 2009 is officially under way. The holiday season is technically over. Decorations which had put up in towns and cities all across the nation to celebrate the season will be taken down. Most of them probably end up in storage for future use – except, of course, any which were custom ordered specifically for "2009." I’m not sure what will happen to them. But, I’m pretty sure that they can’t be used next New Year’s Day without further customization.  

I’m willing to bet that most of us like having our cities decorated during the holiday season. It gives us that warm fuzzy feeling. Gives our normal everyday lives just a bit more of cheerfulness, right? And, considering how badly Wall Street big shots have screwed up the U.S. economy – anything which gives us a bit of reprieve from having to think about it is a welcome diversion. Don’t you agree?

There has been one thought which has continued to pop up in mind this holiday season.

All of the holiday decorating costs money. There’s the cost of the decorations themselves. Then paying for the man hours to put them up and take them down. There is probably even some cost to having to store them until next year.

Some cities had Christmas parades. That had to cost. Then of course, they had to pay workers to put up barricades along parade routes. The cost of the parade floats.

Let’s not forget about the New Year’s Eve celebrations many major cities put on. Those had to cost a pretty penny – and some of them were quite elaborate.

But who pays for all of it?

My guess is that local governments foot the bill. Which means, ultimately it is the taxpayers who pay for it one way or the other.

My question then it this: how is it, despite the economic recession, there is funding for all of it?

When you stop to think about it, none of it really helps the average family pay their rent, put food on the table, or keep the family clothed. So, in all reality, the public decorations and celebrations are nothing more than superficial "window dressing."

Seems like a waste, doesn’t it?

Yet, let a homeless support services organization appear before a city council seeking funding to feed their community’s homeless or add additional beds and local leaders automatically go into "…we don’t have enough in the city budget for that" mode.

On the other hand, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, Stimulus Shouldn’t Be an Excuse for Pork, the U.S. Conference of Mayors has submitted, their Main Street Economic Recovery report to Congress. The report is a request for funding from the Federal government to "… strengthen metro economies." The total amount: $96.6 billion – all paid for by the U.S. taxpayer, of course. The wish list is 1,557 pages long and outlines the many projects some cities consider top priority in their communities.

For example

  • Tucson, AZ; Miami, FL; Hercules, CA; and Long Beach, CA are asking for a combined total of $438 million to build parking garages. That’s all they’ll be spending that money on: only parking garages.
  • Florissant, MO; Scottsdale, AZ; Miami, FL; Meridian, MS; Durham, NC; Trenton, NJ; Philadelphia, PA; and Ponce, Puerto Rico are asking for $247.75 million to build museums.
  • Rhode Island is requesting $4.8 million to build a polar bear exhibit.

Hell, I didn’t even know that Rhode Island had polar bears. Apparently they do.

Foolish me – all this time I thought their habitat was primarily confined to the Arctic Circle.

Call me a simpleton, but it seems to me that all of that "pork barrel" spending could be utilized more effectively.

Instead of parking garages, perhaps expanding shelters to accommodate the increasing homeless population might be more in order. Instead of museums, maybe increasing the numbers of affordable housing units in their communities would be a better investment. Rather than spend taxpayer dollars on useless exhibits – such as Rhode Island is planning – perhaps a public awareness campaign to educate the community about the realities of homelessness.

The bottom line is this. I’m all for a community wanting to "beautify" themselves. But, all of these beautifications are worthless and superficial if there are men, women and children who are being left out in the cold without a roof over their heads.

Contrary to popular belief, not everyone who experiences homelessness has chosen to do so. In fact, it’s only a small percentage – less than 10 percent – that have deliberately chosen homelessness as a lifestyle.

With the record numbers of foreclosures; the increasing numbers of jobs which are being lost; and an economy which doesn’t seem to be on the verge of getting better anytime in the near future, the numbers of folks who will find themselves homeless will continue to rise.

Let me put is this way: more and more American’s are suffering the effects of the current economic meltdown. As such, the number of folks living paycheck to paycheck is increasing. And many more are teetering on the brink of becoming homeless. You might be one of those people.

Let’s say that you do find yourself without a home. Will a new public parking garage, a museum, or a polar bear exhibit help you find a way back into the mainstream of society?

But then, of course, if worse came to worse, you could find a dark corner in one of those parking garages as a place to sleep – that’s providing that local law enforcement don’t chase you off or give you ticket for sleeping in public.

Isn’t it nice to know your tax dollars are hard at work paying for pork barrel… er… economic recovery projects?

  1. Skye says:

    Hard to imagine the need for parking garages when so many Americans are losing their jobs. Who will park in them? And I’ll bet they won’t let homeless people shelter in them, either.

  2. Rochelle says:

    I love your comments, but AR is the abbreviation for Arkansas, not Arizona (AZ)!!!

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