Lincoln County Record
The Lincoln County Record

May 09, 2007

Municipal Welfare

One of the most controversial, divisive issues of the last half century is the governmental innovation known as Welfare.

Like most Federal programs, it was a good idea in the beginning that eventually evolved into something ugly that was loved by those who dipped their beaks into the public coffers yet was despised by those filling the well.

Welfare is free money given by a government with too much of it to recipients who did nothing to earn it.

Today, there is a new form of Welfare.

It’s called Yucca Mountain.

More specifically, it is the incredibly deep pocket of a Federal government trying to buy the goodwill of local governments with their spare change.

It is being done with grants given under the laughable cloak of pretending to allow those municipal agencies to use money from the Feds to find ways to fight the Feds over the nuclear waste repository.

And there are few local governments with their noses any deeper in that Department Of Energy trough than Lincoln County.

On Monday, the county rolled out their 2007-08 budget for their Nuclear Oversight department.

One point nine million dollars.

That’s how much the county plans to spend in the next year.

Unfortunately, while some of that money will stay here to fund local people in made-up county jobs, the bulk of it will go to various “consultants” with their hands out.

There are local residents trying to get their roads paved, others struggling to survive on the pennies to be made in 21st century agriculture, and county agencies using 20-year-old vehicles to take care of too many people in need.

Meanwhile, wealthy consultants whose biggest task is giving a book report or reading an obscure newspaper clipping to the County Commission once a month will reap hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The money isn’t being used for legitimate scientific research, or legal maneuvering or even the use of lobbyists that might be able to make a difference when it comes time for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to make a decision about Yucca Mountain.

It’s being used to conduct studies and interpret paperwork.

Sorry, $1.9 million seems like a lot for a glorified C3PO unit whose only task is to translate data.

And to those who support this bizarre form of municipal Welfare, it’s all okay because “it’s Federal money, it’s not county money.”

Well here’s a news flash:

It IS county money.

And city money, and state money.

It is OUR money.

The tax dollars being wasted on this boondoggle come from U.S. citizens.

Believe it or not, that includes us.

On Monday, County Commissioner Ronda Hornbeck had the guts to say “Stop the Madness” and actually question whether it’s in the best interest of the county to continue blindly forking over blank checks to these consultants.

Her reward was a blistering hue and cry from those wounded consultants who can’t understand why a county where families have to make a decision every day between whether to buy food or whether to buy shoes, would have the audacity to challenge their hundred-thousand-dollar studies over whether the route to Yucca Mountain should go through an empty stretch of desert or an empty stretch of desert.

Somehow, the consultants seemed to express a certain amount of “entitlement” to that money.

Just like some third-generation Welfare recipients who have developed the mindset that they are somehow entitled to government money.

Maybe there is a certain amount of value to the work being done by some of the consultants.

But the benchmark should be this: if we were writing the checks ourselves, if we were squeezing the quarters out of our own pockets, is this an endeavor we would be willing to pay nearly $2 million a year for?

In a county where those quarters are not easy to come by, the answer would be no.

And taking these Federal handouts just to turn around and line the pockets of out-of-town professionals with lots of letters behind their names shouldn’t make the decision any easier.

Hornbeck is right to ask questions.

If more municipal leaders showed that kind of stewardship, maybe our country wouldn’t be carrying trillions of dollars in debt that our grandchildren will someday have to pay.