The Woodward News

September 28, 2007

Strange spending decisions


Recently there was talk in Washington about raising the national debt limit once again.

The current limit is just below $9 trillion. And no that is not a typing error, it is in the trillions.

That is a number that most people cannot even comprehend, but it just doesn’t seem to be enough for the federal government.

This frustrates me for several reasons.

First of all, it’s frustrating because the average citizen cannot just go to the bank or their credit card company and say, “I’m about to reach my $2,000 limit. So, I’ve decided to raise it another $1,000. Just thought I’d tell you.”

But what really frustrates me is not that politicians want to raise the limit so they can spend more money, but it is what they want to spend that money on.

Even more than that, it is the knowledge that the extra money the government is spending will not go to those who need it most.

For example, we spend billions to fund the war in Iraq, and not enough money makes its way to the soldiers who are actually risking their lives and fighting that war.

And it is not just federal spending that is troublesome, it often happens on the state and local levels as well.

An example that hits a little closer to home revolves around the town hall meeting held by the Oklahoma 911 Advisory Board in Woodward Tuesday. The purpose of the meeting was to get input from local officials about 911 service issues which will be incorporated into a report to be given to legislators, who will then hopefully use the report to develop a plan to improve 911 throughout Oklahoma.

For a large part of that meeting, the officials, who came from several area counties, said the main issue is funding. They just don’t have enough money. When the consultants leading the meeting tried to address these concerns, all they could say was that funding would come later on in the process.

However, at one point it was noted that the consulting company had been paid around $200,000 to develop the report for the 911 Advisory Board.

I don’t know about you, but I remember in school when you got in trouble for paying someone to write your reports for you.

I understand that it isn’t exactly the same situation, but I don’t really understand the purpose of having all these consultants. Members of the 911 Advisory Board also attended the meeting, why can’t they develop their own report?

Why does there always have to be some third party?

I obviously don’t understand the ins and outs of bureaucratic red tape, but then I don’t understand why so much red tape is needed.

During the meeting, Gene Thaxton, chairman of the 911 Advisory Board, commented, “in Oklahoma, 911 is in a crisis situation.”

But, as he also noted, neither the state or the federal government was able to provide funding to handle this crisis. Yet somehow they found $200,000 for consulting fees.

From what I understand that money might be a complete waste in the end, as Thaxton also suggested that our state legislators might decide the report is not good enough and want some interim study done, which of course would cost more money just to do the same thing all over again.

How many situations like these are happening within our state and nation right now? How much money are we going to waste on studies and never get anything accomplished?

I’m not against government spending, I am against wasteful government spending.

In other interesting governmental spending, Oklahoma was recently awarded a federal grant for almost $12 million to help provide treatment to drug addicts who are being released from prison.

I’m not saying that substance abuse treatment programs are wasteful, but it all comes down to priorities.

Why not spend that same $12 million on early education programs or drug prevention programs, so that rather than try to reintegrate these people back into society after jail, they never go to jail in the first place?

And if we can find ways to spend $12 million on drug addicts and criminals, why can’t we find the money to spend on health care for our nation’s children?

Rowynn Ricks is staff writer for the Woodward News. She can be reached at reporter1@woodwardnews.net.