sgian at planetc.com
Fri Dec 3 18:59:43 EST 2004
> So far I haven't gathered hordes and attacked Gates or Trump or Heinz to
> raid and plunder their coffers.
What people do with their own money is their own affair, to some extent
anyway. All grants are ultimately government grants since in all cases the
grantor is donating untaxed money and in many cases it is a direct credit
toward tax liability. While I have some problems with the SOURCE of grants,
it's the RESULTS of grants that bother me far more.
I'm sure in the great, vast amount of public and private grants there is
some good being done. I've never been witness to it. What I have been
witness to is this:
We participated in the local municipally sponsored farmers market two years
ago (and never again). It ran from April through October with there being
four or five participants the first six weeks and last six weeks. During
the height of the season there were maybe 20 growers max, most very small
selling a little garden surplus and four or five who were serious
marketeers. Altogether all 20 all season long did maybe $25K of business.
I attended the organizational meetings and stood slack jawed as the minutes
were read. The market operated on about $210K of grants. The money went to
augment the salary of the city bureaucrat who oversaw the market and her
assistant who was the "market master." The rest went into advertising and a
few other things. In addition to that the sellers paid a fee and had to pay
extra to use a table. Ostensibly the grants said they were to provide an
opportunity for local growers to sell their produce. In reality they could
have just given us all the money we would have made in cash and saved 90% of
the money spent. The farmers market collected in fees and received in
grants about $10 for every $1 of produce sold.
Likewise a grant to purchase seed and distribute it to poor rural families
so they could grow a garden cost so much to run that they could have taken
all those families out to eat all summer for less money than it cost to
provide them with $20 worth of seed.
A friend of ours wrote himself some grants to fund a county "Office on
Youth" which was entertaining since he knew nothing about Appalachian
culture and though it was a major find when one of his endless surveys
revealed the number of dangerous weapons in the schools (good thing you have
me on the job) only to find out that a pocket knife was de rigueur for
middle school students around here. His grants totaled some $55K, $50K of
which constituted his salary and the other $5K was matched by a further $5K
from the county to fund office expenses. His crowning glory was where his
efforts had "reduced suicidal thoughts by 17% in middle school students."
This was done by doing a survey which contained a question to the gist of
"Sometimes don't you just feel like dying?" and then six months later doing
a survey on the same population and asking "Have you ever considered killing
yourself?" Since 17% fewer responded in the affirmative to the latter
question than to the former, he claimed his efforts had reduced "suicidal
thoughts." When the county decided that he was a ridiculous wastrel and did
not fund even the $5K matching from local funds, the grants disappeared and
so did he.
And there are cases where grants actually do harm. Many local grantmongers
try to tap into the ARC (Appalachian Regional Commission) funds. One
perennial grantmonger set up a sawmill with a sawdust and slab fired kiln to
"demonstrate" (they are always demonstrating something) "sustainable"
logging to us poor ignorant hillbillies. Since expenses were being paid by
the grants, he could charge drying fees far below what it actually costs -
he never got the slab furnace going and has been using propane the whole
time. This nearly put several legitimate and long term kilns out of
business. The ARC is a (misguided) fund intended directly for the benefit
of Appalachian folk yet 95% of its grant money goes to pay grantmongering
salaries of imported Californians and Yankees.
I could go on at some length. I have yet to see a grant that did not come
out of some grantmonger wanting salary and looking about for some cause
thinly justify it. I'm especially amused at the grants to set up a
"sustainable" something or the other. If it is supported by grants, it is
de facto not sustainable. It's like saying I've invented a way of warming
the house by burning damp leaves I gather in the woods in winter. The
system operates by supplying kerosene through a 1" line to keep the leaves
burning. Once you cut off the kerosene, the furnace is just full of
smoldering leaves. "Sustainable" projects supported by grants are like
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