FEMA Grants – Another symptom of the disease

Although the city of Bristol, Conn. will need to use $85,000 of “its own money” towards the purchase of a new generator for the police department and courts complex, FEMA – the federal government – will provide them with a $255,000 grant to cover the rest of the purchase and installation.

The Hartford Courant’s first sentence in their story.

The city has landed a $255,000 federal grant to replace the aging generator at its police and courts complex, home of the emergency operations center.

Landed. Like a big fish. I’m quite certain the 30-year-old generator needed to be replaced, and I’m certain the old equipment was sub-standard when it comes to today’s requirements for the building, but why the heck is the federal government funding 75 percent of this?

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This is where our passion must focus.

During the last five to six decades, we’ve seen a slow but consistent overly-dependent relationship build between local government and the all-knowing federal planners in Washington D.C. These grants have just about everything you can imagine including brick crosswalks, street signs, fire trucks, ambulances, emergency radios, school text books, schools, swimming pools, parks, playground equipment, busses, office computers, office furniture and even jobs. Remember Bill Clinton’s plan to put 100,000 cops on the street?

Local communities, cities and states must now actively work with grant-writing organizations or hire full time staff to pitch requests for grants – free money from the federal government. Colleges now have masters degrees in grant writing, management and evaluation. Begging for tax dollars from other government agencies has become an industry of its own. A similar new industry is formed by companies who have become experts in getting federal contracts. It’s not a coincidence you’ve never heard of CGI Federal – the primary contractor for the Obamacare system – until a month ago. You might think Google, Microsoft, Oracle or IBM would have gotten that contract but no. CGI Federal are experts in wading through the federal government’s procurement red tape. That’s how they got into the door!

Folks, this is another perfect example of the problem we face. One of the symptoms derived from the disease. Since we’ve abdicated power and handed money over to the federal government, every city, town, school, fire department, police department and public works department have to spend a significant resources begging for dollars. Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose. The federal government now picks the winners and losers.

As an example, in 2011 the State of Connecticut spent time and money on applications for federal grants in the Race for the Top program, only to completely fail three times in a row. The “winners” – and they are opening described as such – were California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington.

How the hell did we put ourselves in the position of begging? For the 2011 Race to the Top program, we were trying to get $50 million. Previous applications begged for $175 million.

Do you see the problem here yet?

Pick just about any domestic policy issue you can imagine – abortion, health care, education. They can and should be decided on at the state levelThere is no need for us to collectively agree on everything. Today, some states have the death penalty and other do not. That’s fine. Heck, some states might have the people and the state legislature agree on and pass a socialized, single-payer health care system. That’s fine. But those things must not be executed at the federal level.

We are the United States. From the get-go, the states is where the real power was supposed to stay. It really was, and still is, and ingenious idea. The United States federal constitution was less than 5,000 words – for perspective, this article is just over 1,000 words – and the powers granted to the federal government were clearly defined. The 10th Amendment in the Bill of Rights made what was very clear in the main text, even more understandable.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Don’t point to the “general welfare” clause. If you think that covers the federal government’s funding of a brick sidewalk, where does their power end? The word “general” was in specific reference to the “nation’s” welfare, not including pure local or regional benefit. An example of acceptable federal funding in a local area might be a lighthouse used to support navigation for the entire east-coast trade route. The modern-day equivalent would be building and launching Global Positioning Satellites (GPS).

In very simple, easy-to-understand terms, that means the City of Bristol needs to buy their own damn generator. Really, what’s wrong with that concept? Nothing at all, except federal programs that started with the New Deal slowly started moving power and spending authority from local communities and states to the central planners in Washington, D.C. And now we’re stuck. “If we don’t beg for federal funding and take the federal funding handed to us, someone else will be happy to take it.” Ugh…

This folks, is what my definition of conservatism is. Some may call it federalism. Some may associate these ideas with the TEA Party. All I know is that we desperately need to move away from the unending growth of the federal government.

How to start…

Pick a federal program that is duplicated at the state level. There are hundreds of them to choose from. Kill it. I’m quite serious. Completely dismantle the Department of Education as an example. Do teachers really look to the federal government as all-knowing gods when it comes to education? Is Education Sec. Arne Duncan somehow smarter than local principals when it comes to school administration and teaching kids?

Nope … they just kneel to him and grovel … begging for his money because we’ve somehow been brainwashed into sending him billions of dollars so he can redistribute it as he sees fit.

Steve McGough

Steve's a part-time conservative blogger. Steve grew up in Connecticut and has lived in Washington, D.C. and the Bahamas. He resides in Connecticut, where he’s comfortable six months of the year.


  1. scheidel21 on November 21, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Well you don’t make hard decisions about what to spend public funds on if you are able to draw a majority of them from a Federal government that effectively has no borrowing limit, and doesn’t care how much it’s spending.

  2. SeeingRed on November 22, 2013 at 9:19 am

    And this goes on to all of the ‘Bristol’s’ of the country, day in and day out.? What should our federal income tax rates really be?? How much of what they collect from us is waste, fraud and abuse?? I’m guessing 50%, maybe more.

  3. bien-pensant on November 22, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    Handing out the largesse of the federal treasury is one of the perks of the political winners. I am pretty sure this started before Reconstruction.
    The only way to combat this creeping “Blob” is to elect government officials who are not only Republicans but are conservatives with strong libertarian minds. In other words, people who believe in a smaller, leaner and more efficient government. (to borrow a phrase)
    What works against this reform is that people all along the path of the money (either directly or indirectly) have their hands out and it finds its way into so many pockets, party hack pockets. Under the current regime, grant money undoubtedly finds its way into the coffers of the DNC and democrat PACs. In other words, grants become a way to fund campaigns.
    The Department of Education educates no one. What does the Department of Energy have to show for giving all of those “loans” (billions of $$) to green energy companies. The government is chock full of Departments, Agencies and Boards, along with other governmental groups, that exist solely to funnel money to one politically deserving causes.
    Think of grants as rewards for left thinking.

  4. Lynn on November 23, 2013 at 8:22 am

    Ah, the memories, in my little hometown in the 70’s, I was impressed by a wonderful, spunky lady who was a party line Democrat. Every time the ?Board of Selectmen said we were applying for a grant to partially fund anything, she would say, “there is no Santa Claus. Where do you think that money comes from? That is our money.” Sometimes she changed it to the Easter Bunny. We laughed, but she was right.

    • bien-pensant on November 23, 2013 at 9:58 am

      I always wondered where Rush got his Santa Claus line from.


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