Thar she blows (dollars)

Cutting earmarks from the federal budget is tough, writes New York Times columnist Gail Collins. In the quest to look efficient, the Department of Education “proposed to eliminate seven programs, consolidate 38 others and wipe out $123 million in earmarks.”

Good work, Department of Education! And good luck actually getting rid of them.

After all, the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation, set up to celebrate the 500th anniversary of 1492, is still in business.  Among other things, it sends middle schoolers with community improvement ideas to Disney World.

My own favorite target for extinction is a $9 million annual appropriation for museums and educational programs that highlight the “shared culture and tradition” of Alaskan Natives, Native Hawaiians and “children and families of Massachusetts.”

In other words, whaling.

In 2006, Congress made the Choctaw Indians of Mississippi eligible for whaling museum money, apparently to pay off “the state’s earmark-loving senior senator, Thad Cochran,” rather “than Mississippi’s rich whaling tradition.”

About Joanne


  1. How about all the cuts for library funding, including the Improving Literacy for School Libraries grants?

    As a journalist you should be aghast Joanne. Instead you seem to be praising the work of yet another group of amateurs in charge of the Dept. of Education. Shame on you.

    The only thing missing from the Dept. of Ed is Send In The Clown playing in the background.

  2. I was involved with reviewing this program (Improving Literacy for School Libraries) and I would not cry about cutting it. Basically it pumps money to library-related activities in “needy” schools to bring them up to par with “non-needy” schools.

    First, the differences in terms of book and library availability between the two groups was small to begin with, and is getting more minuscule every year.

    Second, much of the money is blown on fancy infrastructure upgrades, poorly attended workshops, and what seems peripheral activities. Only a small fraction goes to buy more books or keep libraries open longer.

    But the decisive factor for my current opinion was simply that: despite all the praise that grantees heaped on the program (they want to keep getting the money, after all) the only meaningful measure of success–did the kids increased their book checkout–didn’t budge. Check out the recent report form ED on that:

    So my verdict is simple. Kill it! As we should so many other wonderfully-sounding but ineffective programs.

  3. I am reminded almost every time I visit of the wastefulness of the Santa Clara County library system. They have shelves full of gaming programs (Playstation, Xbox, PC, etc) – why is taxpayer money being spent to help kids spend even MORE time in front of their TVs!?!

    The library is also updating their materials management system from barcodes to RFIDs – this after just a couple of years ago adding self-check in/out stations in the library and scanners outside for receipt check-in – all using barcode technology. Of course, none of the barcode scanners can be used for the RFIDs – different technolgies! Wonder what the ROI was on that project! Now there is a new RFID system and I’m sure the contracts had the typical astronomical, screw-the-taxpayer mark-up. What a waste.

    Last week I noticed there were all new chairs in the teen study area. These were sleek, gorgeous, sky-blue leather wraparound numbers. Must have cost a fortune! I was shocked at first, then I remembered that this is what our government does – waste, waste, waste.

    All this in a state that is on the verge of financial collapse with some of the highest unemployment in the nation.

    We need to pull the plug on this – our government is a very poor steward of precious resources at every level. Time to make those resources scarce. Cut, cut, cut!