When some group announces they have received a federal grant, we accept that at face value and make the assumption that the funds are indeed earmarked for a worthwhile cause. And in most cases, I believe that's true. But what I believe most people fail to connect is that federal grants are no more than your tax dollars being funneled based on a decision of others.
Federal grants, both today and especially in the past, have been the life blood for small communities. Many programs and improvement projects would go unfunded without the assistance of those federal grant dollars. Our area is a prime example of the benefit derived from successfully requesting and utilizing federal grants.
Today I read where a $720,000 federal grant had been awarded to four St. Louis agencies to provide mental health, social and legal services to immigrants and refuge survivors of torture. Now I'll readily admit I know little to nothing about the mental health needs of immigrants who survived torture in their home countries. I can only imagine that the trauma they have suffered is tremendous. Yet given that understanding, it makes you wonder why taxpayers are asked to contribute three-quarters of a million dollars (this year alone) to fund those services. I don't necessarily oppose these grant dollars, I just don't fully understand the scope of the issue and why this amount of funds is required to provide some form of relief.
At the basis of all this discussion is the realization that this grant - or any other - is just another way to spend taxpayer money. That doesn't diminish the need. But at some point, all taxpayers and all elected officials must recognize that the financial pot is indeed limited. And given that fact, are these dollars providing the most benefit to the most people? That question applies to any expenditure of tax dollars.
I'm sure that immigrants need assistance to fully function in our society. That assistance can and does take many forms. But anytime an elected official spends my tax dollar, I think it's appropriate that someone, somewhere provides assurance that this is the best and most effective use of those limited dollars.
Until we all ask this question, our tax burden will grow year after year. And we all know that at some point, the tax burden itself will become a problem that needs fixing. Where will we go then?