Feds Spend Nearly $1 Billion Helping Kids Walk to School
A coworker tipped me off to an earmarked federal program that--I found while digging through its grant allocations--will have spent $1 billion helping kids walk to school from 2005 to 2014. The kicker? An international, privately-funded nonprofit, staffed largely by volunteers, already successfully does the exact same thing.
Here are some of my favorite things your tax dollars have paid for through the “Safe Routes to School” program.
- $28,634 for bicycle rodeos in Bradenton, Florida
- $1,100 for posters and paper sneakers in Wilmington, Delaware
- $1,104,453 for a "team of engineers, planners, and bicycle/pedestrian experts" to work with schools in reducing car speeds and improving pedestrian and bicycle access to schools statewide in Massachusetts
- $5,560 for "I'm Safe" bookmarks in Dover, Delaware
- $5,000 for a bike obstacle course and walking school bus in Boise, Idaho
- And $48,009 to create "encouragement" signs, have law enforcement slow traffic, and develop safety materials for the Amish in Millersburg, Ohio.
This, my friends, is one of the many things that has me just a little worried about our republic: Biking to school encouragement for the Amish while we’re $15 trillion in the hole. As I wrote for Real Clear Policy yesterday:
The program is directly contributing to the federal deficit and national debt because its funding was frozen at 2009 levels, when budgets stopped and continuing resolutions became the new normal. In 2009, spending on the program exceeded the revenue that was supposed to pay for it from the federal gas tax. Program spending still far exceeds revenue—a microcosm of Congressional spending in general.
One reader who wrote RCP to take me on was not convinced.
“Let's start with real journalistic questions, none of which were even touched on,” she wrote. “1) Is it a wise use of taxpayer dollars to build roads in residential communities that are mortally dangerous to kids (and adults) to walk on? 2) Is this an acceptable choice to give children: either walk in a drainage ditch next to 55 mph traffic to get to school or be driven everywhere? ... 3) If $100 million is divided between the 50 states, DC and territories, can any state (much less community) get enough money to do anything meaningful?”
I have a better way of rephrasing that last question. If $15.7 trillion in national debt is divided among the U.S.’s 313 million inhabitants, does the resulting per-person tally change the definition of “meaningful project to spend other people’s money on”?