We’re in deep trouble if, as it apparently seems, that someone is me.
Recently, for those unaware, President Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made headlines by announcing that she was planning to eliminate funding for the Special Olympics in an effort to reduce the department’s budget. Predictably, this was met with a chorus of agony and hand wringing from people on both the left and right. President Trump eventually overrode her though and insisted that the funding would remain in place much to the delight of many of the aforementioned hand wringers.
Here’s the thing though, he was wrong to do that. That statement will come as a shock to many people for many reasons, not the least of which being that I’m sure some people think I worship the guy. But I’ll say it again: he was wrong to do that. And if you’ll allow me, I will explain why.
Before I get too far along though I’d like to provide some background about my extended family. My grandmother has five siblings. As I was growing up all of those siblings and their children, and their children, would get together multiple times throughout the year in various ways. For the most part the entire extended family lived fairly close to each other so there were always gatherings of some sort going on. On top of that, at least twice a year, Thanksgiving and Christmas, the entire extended family would get together.
The reason I bring this up is because within that extended family there were four people with Down Syndrome: my cousins Bonnie, Randy, Richard, and Dennis. I grew up with these people and saw them on a regular basis. They were part of the family and while I knew some of them much better than others, I had many interactions with all of them. They have all passed on now, but they were important members of our extended family and each one blessed us all in different ways.
Of all of them, the one I had the closest relationship with was Dennis. He lived with his mother, my grandmother’s sister, in the house literally just up the hill from my grandmother’s house. Every Sunday we would go to my grandmother’s house for lunch, or Sunday dinner as it is better known, and many times after lunch I would walk up the hill and shoot some basketball with Dennis. We would talk and he would tell me what was going on in his life and he was just one of the warmest people I have ever met in my life, an absolute joy to be around. I think fondly of every time I got to interact with him, and I would be willing to assume that everyone else in our family feels the same way.
I say all that to provide context, not to attempt to claim that I have some better understanding of the type of people to whom the Special Olympics provide valuable outlets and services. I do understand the value of the Special Olympics and the value that it provides the people involved at every level. I wholeheartedly agree that the Special Olympics is a valuable and needed organization.
What I do not agree with is that it is within the purview of the Federal Government. Or any government for that matter. That is why I say that President Trump was wrong to override Betsy DeVos with regard to its funding as part of the budget for the Department of Education. The Special Olympics, while a valuable, and dare I say, noble organization, is not the responsibility of the taxpayer by way of the Federal Government.
I expressed that sentiment yesterday on Facebook and I received a reply that actually surprised me. Both because of who it was from, although that shouldn’t have, and because of what the argument consisted of. The argument that came to me was essentially this: “we wasted money on that garbage Mueller investigation, we can afford to fund the Special Olympics. Especially since it isn’t that much money.”
On its surface I suppose that isn’t that bad of an argument. We certainly did, as taxpayers, waste multiple millions of dollars on an investigation that at best was a giant waste of time and money and at worst a coup attempt. Surely, given that we throw money at terrible things such as bogus investigations we can afford to throw some money at such a good cause as the Special Olympics, can we not? Well no, actually. You see, the problem with that argument is the wasteful spending. The problem is that we spent money that we should not have, so the solution to the problem of wasteful spending is not to give us more of the thing we don’t want. It is not any sort of rational justification that since we waste money on one thing it is ok to waste it on another. This is a flawed premise. More than that though, it’s how we got here to begin with.
The whole attitude of “we’re spending the money anyway” is how we end up in situations where we are funding things that we should not be. Despite how good it may feel to know that we as taxpayers are spending our money on something such as the Special Olympics, it is still an improper use of tax money. The big problem is that no one wants to be the bad guy who stands up and says no. But someone has to. So, I guess that someone is me.
And therein lies the problem. In the age of social media politicians want to have some kind of thing that they can point to in an effort to say “see look what I did!” No one wants to be the adult who has to make the tough decisions, because being the one to make the tough decisions isn’t fun. The disciplinarian is usually not the “cool” parent and what we have in the majority of our politicians is the equivalent of a bunch of people fighting over who gets to be the cool one. But, in keeping with the parenting analogy, it’s never good for the child when parents take that approach.
When a child is never told “no”, they become uncontrollable and in the long run a detriment to not just themselves but society as well. So too does government. Like the gluttonous child whose parents let them eat whatever they want without regard, the government also becomes an insatiable blob devouring budget restrictions in the same way children engorge themselves on junk food. Addicted to the “sugar high” of this feel good spending the government becomes the bloated leviathan due in large part to simply never having been told no. That is why it is up to adults to stand up and say “enough!”
Just as with the child, it is for its own benefit that we tell the government no. It doesn’t matter what well meaning program we happen to stand up and say no on, the point is that it will never be one that the governmental child wants to let go. People who get up in arms about the elimination of funding for something like the Special Olympics are like the family member or friend who says “oh come on, what could it hurt? Let the child have the candy.” The problem is that the child has already had too much candy and it is now up to the parent to put their foot down and say, for the child’s own benefit, “that’s enough”.
I understand that such decisions will never be popular. That does not in any way alleviate us from the responsibility of having to make them. Not every decision that gets made will be popular, and that is ok, they are still necessary. Neither will these decisions always be easy. Again, that does not mean they are not the responsible and correct decision to make.
The worst part about the whole thing for me though is that all of this is completely unnecessary. The Special Olympics only receives 10% of its funding from the Federal Government, if it cannot find a way of increasing its funding to survive upon losing 10% then perhaps it has bigger problems to begin with. Or maybe, just maybe, all of the people who wring their hands, pull their hair and gnash their teeth at the thought of a private entity losing Federal funds could step up and put their money where their mouth is. Perhaps they’d be willing to fund this noble enterprise so desperately in need of money rather than sitting back with a smug sense of accomplishment that they kept it funded by extorting the rest of us.