The Community Development Block Grant program is a perfect example of the blurring of responsibility between the federal government and the states. The program’s roots go back to the Great Society and the wishful belief that the problems of urban Americans could be solved with handouts from Washington. Instead, the program “has degenerated into a federal slush fund for pet projects of local politicians and politically connected businesses.”
That quote comes from Rep. Tom McClintock (R‑CA) who introduced an amendment this week to terminate CDBGs. As McClintock explained to his House colleagues, it is not the federal government’s responsibility to fund purely parochial activities:
Even in the best of circumstances, these are all projects that exclusively benefit local communities or private interests and ought to be paid for exclusively by those local communities or private interests. They are of such questionable merit that no city council is willing to face its constituents and say, this is how we’ve spent your local taxes. But they are more than happy to spend somebody else’s federal taxes.
Unfortunately, McClintock’s words fell upon deaf ears as his amendment was voted down 80 to 342. Not a single Democrat supported the amendment. But it was the 156 Republicans who voted against the amendment that doomed it. Among those Republicans voting “no” was House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R‑WI). Worse, only 33 percent of the GOP “Tea Party Freshmen” voted to terminate a program that is completely at odds with the principles of limited government.
As I noted back in May, many of the GOP freshmen have switched from tea to Beltway Kool‐Aid. Take, for example, tea party favorite Allen West of Florida. On West’s congressional website, he states that “As your Congressman, I will curb out of control Government spending.” He also says that “we need to challenge the status quo in Washington and stop the floodgates of government spending” and that he will “carry the torch of conservative, small government principles with me to Washington.” West, however, voted to save the CDBG program and he also voted back in May to save the Economic Development Administration, which is another parochial slush fund. In April, he accused Democrats of being communists. That’s pretty rich given that he proceeded to vote to protect programs that engage in central planning.