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"this will be seen as one of the largest patronage programs in American history"
March 22, 2006 10:26 PM   Subscribe

"These are just slush funds for conservative interest groups" --The Compassion Capital Fund ($148 million of our money), and the Community-Based Abstinence Education grant program ($391.7 million of our money)--just 2 of many new programs. ...The distribution of new money to conservative organizations is a small part of an estimated flood of $2 billion a year in federal grants to religious and religiously affiliated organizations.--except it's only to organizations who have policies that agree with Bush and the GOP agenda on social issues, and not about need.
posted by amberglow (61 comments total)

 
$2 billion a year?! That's like, 5,000 dead arabs.
posted by borkingchikapa at 10:28 PM on March 22, 2006


Hey, I agree with Bush and the GOP agenda on social issues. Can I have my million bucks now?
posted by spacewrench at 10:31 PM on March 22, 2006



This is totalitarian vertical alignment of public institutions.

War will do that to you.
posted by bukharin at 10:41 PM on March 22, 2006


How is this article anything other than Christian bashing? The lion's share of taxes are paid by Christians, what's wrong with putting the money back into Christian organizations?

If the majority were Muslim, no one would complain about government money going to mosques or community organizations that encouraged women to wear burkhas.

Sure, most of the recipients support the President and his policies, but it's natural to support the guy who gives you your money. What's wrong with that?
posted by orthogonality at 10:50 PM on March 22, 2006


Gee, this is a surprise.
posted by adgnyc at 10:51 PM on March 22, 2006


This could lead to Republican social workers.
posted by jaysus chris at 11:02 PM on March 22, 2006


jaysus chris writes "This could lead to Republican social workers."

Been done.

They're called "small business owners". Instead of giving hand-outs and excuses, they give the poor an opportunity to work hard while learning discipline and respect.
posted by orthogonality at 11:10 PM on March 22, 2006


are you really that obtuse? it's a clear violation of the separation of church and state.
posted by Miles Long at 11:24 PM on March 22, 2006


More cronyism...

And orthogonality...

How about you cut the self-righteous conservative bullshit. As Miles Long points out, there is NO state religion in the USA, so your post of "most people paying taxes are Christians" line is what's wrong with this country right now. Go back to listening to Rush and O'Liely
posted by Windopaene at 12:01 AM on March 23, 2006


The lion's share of taxes are paid by Christians...

That's a pretty funny statement. On a couple of levels.
posted by gemini at 12:02 AM on March 23, 2006


Here is the problem: these dollars may come _mostly_ from Christians, but they do not come EXCLUSIVELY from Christians--and, when these dollars were paid in (under threat of imprisonment), it was not with the understanding that "this money will be given to various Christian organizations, and these Christian organizations will work to further the cause of Christianity in the US of A".

US citizens work and pay taxes with the understanding that their surrendered income will benefit their fellow US citizens regardless of their religious background. Given the fact that prisons are now being run on the premise that crime in America is synonymous with sin and that redemption from such sin is only possible through Jesus Christ, it would seem that certain of my fellow citizens are being given preferential treatment based solely on their religious beliefs. Yes, Chuck Colson (of Watergate fame) is now the head of an organization that uses Federal tax money to teach incarcerated people that their incarceration is the result of sin against Jesus Christ, and that the only means they have of redeeming themselves (and, thus, getting paroled...) is via accepting Jesus as their personal savior.

I could go on at even greater length, but... the fact is, my wages are taxed, and that money is spent by my (allegedly secular) government on programs intended to create Christian converts. I have a problem with that, and the mere fact that the majority of my fellow payors may be (nominally) Christians does not in any way mitigate the inherent iniquity of such actions.
posted by mountain_william at 12:32 AM on March 23, 2006


And orthogonality...

How about you cut the self-righteous conservative bullshit.


Bizarrometafilter.
posted by justgary at 12:53 AM on March 23, 2006


If they're going to be getting government assistance, then the churches should pay taxes too.
posted by PsychoKick at 1:03 AM on March 23, 2006


The lion's share of taxes are paid by Christians

I would prefer if the lion's share of Christians were paid for by taxes.
posted by srboisvert at 1:26 AM on March 23, 2006


From each according to his ability to each according to his greed.
posted by rhymer at 1:48 AM on March 23, 2006 [1 favorite]


The lion's share of taxes are paid by Christians

I would prefer that some Christians were the lion's share of a lion dinner.

No really that's horrible, that poor people was killed because they believed in an all knowing sky god , how bad can it be ?

Plus that will make only martyrs of them ; the reality is billions dollars shouldn't go to money squandering organizations and faith based initiative squander money and turn countries into Talibans.
posted by elpapacito at 2:12 AM on March 23, 2006


This isn't much different to "liberal slush funds" such as the National Endowment for the Arts and, heck, even public schools. Conservatives' taxes get spent on these, and Liberals' taxes get spent on religious stuff. You can't reasonably applaud one brand of handouts and castigate the other.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 2:21 AM on March 23, 2006


You can't reasonably applaud one brand of handouts and castigate the other.

Reasonably ? Sure I can do that reasonably ! Watch :

Slush funding of Arts is nowhere nearly as damaging
as a Religious Charity ; while in arts the projection of
emotions and ideas into a tangible visible form is
encouraged, Religious Charity promote or suggest the existence of sky-gods , promote existence of supernatural phenomenon and misteries that can't be understood or explained because they are unknowable by axiom.

In other words, while arts may produce nada and sometime are produced only to obtain the funds, religions may produce more tangible profits , in form of better behaving citizens, but come with an hidden cost and agenda as each religion inherently needs new followers and converts to self-sustain or perpetuate their morals.

Welcome to the world of indoctrination
posted by elpapacito at 3:01 AM on March 23, 2006


I can't believe someone didn't realize ortho was being sarcastic. It's as scary as it is funny, because the idea of a semi-sane person holding that viewpoint is no longer out of the question.
posted by Ryvar at 3:21 AM on March 23, 2006


Slush funding of Arts is nowhere nearly as damaging
as a Religious Charity


I do agree. NEA is bad, church is worse. My intent wasn't to argue these points, but to point out that "liberal" programmes have enjoyed massive handouts over the years (I didn't mention public schools just for fun - there's a $70bn handout as far as conservatives are concerned) and that it's somewhat hypocritical to complain when the government suddenly starts spending big bucks on stuff that doesn't support your agenda.

(The underlying point is obviously that it's mostly wrong to have the government spending everyone's tax money on things that only some people like, and very wrong when the population of dislikers is very large).
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 3:48 AM on March 23, 2006


Look, I don't see how this matters in the long term, because y'all going to vote the Republicans so far out of office they'll be begging for campaign funds on street corners, right?
posted by Jimbob at 3:50 AM on March 23, 2006


Can someone explain to me how dishing out money to scores of different charitable organizations to provide social services is somehow more efficient than the government—and here's a crazy idea—just providing social services itself? I realize the US government isn't the most efficient organization, but with all these independently operated charities, there must be tremendous overlap and oversights, not to mention, I imagine, the administrative nightmare of monitoring each individual organization to ensure that the grant money is being used in accordance with whatever federal requirements are attached. Seriously, what's the argument for using these multiple independent organizations to do what the government could do more efficiently itself? Is it because these organizations can further the administration's agendas under the public radar? Is it just to score political brownie points? It just seems a back-assward way of administrating social services in the country ...
posted by bcveen at 4:17 AM on March 23, 2006


Can someone explain to me how dishing out money to scores of different charitable organizations to provide social services is somehow more efficient than the government—and here's a crazy idea—just providing social services itself?

Shh! Hush down, or you'll have the Randites in here. The hard fact is, in most successful western countries, the government does take on the task of ensuring the welfare of its citizens.

Seriously, what's the argument for using these multiple independent organizations to do what the government could do more efficiently itself?

Apparently, there are still some shreds of law remaining in the US that prevent the government openly preaching the word of the Lord to Poor Sinners, and achieving that result requires some shuffling of money around.

(Actually, from a less cynical point of view, there are reasons why you might want a diverse range of charities operating. They all have their strengths, some of them operate in specific local areas, or with particular needy groups. And they tend to have hard working, caring people running them instead of faceless bureaucrats. At least, that might be the case if you're funding, say, the Salvation Army. I doubt this applies if you're receiving money from the fucking (heh) "Community-Based Abstinence Education Program".)
posted by Jimbob at 4:30 AM on March 23, 2006


bcveen - of course that's the way it should be done! But I think you'll find that the Republicans have, um, some pretty entrenched ideological objections to redistribution of wealth, a large state apparatus providing health care and social services, etc. (That and the fact that taking this route allows them to nominally maintain the separation of church and state while furthering a religous agenda with public money.)

The answer is probably to agitate the proletariat into armed revolution ;-)
posted by jack_mo at 4:32 AM on March 23, 2006


> Welcome to the world of indoctrination

Welcome? I've been reading the blue for years. Indoctrination and I are old friends.

Regarding the present subject, I can't see why any group, be it Christians or the Church of the Flying Spagetti Monster, should be denied access to public funds just because of their religion. That would definitely be a government stroke against religion, which is improper--the government must remain neutral as between religion and irreligion just as it must remain neutral between fundamentalist Baptists and Reformed Jews. If anyone gets access to tax monies, then everyone must.

I have of course read Jefferson's "wall of separation" letter that people here so love to quote. The phrase occurs in a letter from a private citizen to other private citizens, and does not appear anywhere in the Constitution. It has had its share of influence on how the first Amendment is presently tendentiously interpreted, but any given tendentious interpretation may well undergo a sea-change into a different tendentious interpretation. If the Second Amendment can be interpreted to mean "Hey, banning guns in NYC is perfectly OK" then the others are carved in pudding also. The Constitution--I can't tell you how piquant it is to say this--The-Constitution-Is-A-Living-Document. And it appears that the disestablishment clause is coming in for another look. If you don't like that, well, your opinion matters if you're on the Supreme Court, otherwise your opinion as a citizen matters almost as much as Joe Sixpak's opinion on who should pitch for the Dodgers. What's more, if there's any crowd with no business going all strict constructionist on any constitutional issue, it's the crowd I'm addressing here.

Suck it up. Register atheists, not guns.
posted by jfuller at 4:42 AM on March 23, 2006


He may be a looney arse, but at least Grover Norquist is a consistent, equal opportunity looney arse:
Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said the grant-making is "corrupting." "The danger is that any group that gets money from the government will end up serving the interests of the state.
posted by meehawl at 5:01 AM on March 23, 2006


Omigosh, Orthogonality haz flipped!!
posted by Drexen at 5:07 AM on March 23, 2006


"If anyone gets access to tax monies, then everyone must."

Why?

Seriously, that seems an entirely ludicrous statement to me. Programs designed to give the poor a leg up must also be available to the rich? Monies designated to compensate for prejudice against minorities have to also be available for majority groups? Funds intended to help out small businesses need to go to large ones as well? Tariffs targeted towards aiding American-owned companies have to also help out companies in China?

That's just silly. Taken to its logical conclusion, it would mean doing away with progressive income tax, and all targeted social, business, scientific, arts, educational, and medical funding and programs, and what programs remained would have to do away with any requirements based on income, hiring practices, criminal behavior, or appropriate need.
posted by kyrademon at 5:14 AM on March 23, 2006


"The danger is that any group that gets money from the government will end up serving the interests of the state."

This is the point.
posted by eriko at 5:34 AM on March 23, 2006


"The danger is that any group that gets money from the government will end up serving the interests of the state."

I <3 Grover Norquist. Oh no, wait, he's a partisan scumbag. Still, even scumbags can suffer from moments of blinding clarity, it seems.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 6:02 AM on March 23, 2006


I can't see why any group, be it Christians or the Church of the Flying Spagetti Monster, should be denied access to public funds just because of their religion

I don't think anyone objects to donating to Christian charities. The problem isn't funding organizations doing work in Jesus's name, it's funding organizations whose work is Jesus.
posted by Simon! at 6:08 AM on March 23, 2006


> That's just silly. Taken to its logical conclusion,

Point not taken. Nothing is ever taken all the way to its uttermost logical conclusion. It's not that common sense prevails, but competing interests certainly will.

We were, in any case, talking specifically about granting or denying access to tax support on the grounds of the recipients' religion, not because of any of the other factors you brought up. Each of those could be debated separately on its own terms. In another thread.

posted by jfuller at 6:14 AM on March 23, 2006


> I don't think anyone objects to donating to Christian charities. The problem
> isn't funding organizations doing work in Jesus's name, it's funding organizations
>whose work is Jesus.

I doubt it. Ask amberglow, who made the original post, whether he's OK with public support of "organizations doing work in Jesus's name." I expect you'll get a different answer.

If I'm wrong, of course, then I'm doing the man an injustice, he's much more reasonable about this than I supposed and I regret the error. How about it, amber?

posted by jfuller at 6:32 AM on March 23, 2006


Jimbob wrote: (Actually, from a less cynical point of view, there are reasons why you might want a diverse range of charities operating. They all have their strengths, some of them operate in specific local areas, or with particular needy groups. And they tend to have hard working, caring people running them instead of faceless bureaucrats. At least, that might be the case if you're funding, say, the Salvation Army. I doubt this applies if you're receiving money from the fucking (heh) "Community-Based Abstinence Education Program".)


Here in Arizona, the latter statement doesn't hold true. The two recipients of the five-year Community-Based Abstinence Education (formally called "Special Projects of Regional and National Significance", or SPRANS) funds were nonprofits: a Catholic Charities organization and a community-based youth prevention organization. Both focus on underserved populations and reach rural communities where there isn't much in the way of social services. Neither have fat-cat executive directors taking the nonprofit for ride.

I recognize that Arizona is not representative of the universe of CBAE-funds recipients, but I thought the point should be made.
posted by parilous at 6:37 AM on March 23, 2006


I'm sure you're right, jfuller, I'm sure that's how some people here are feeling. But I don't think it's really where most of the outrage is coming from, because I don't think this is really about religion like you think. Religion is a red herring here - the issue is patronage. It's the government giving remarkable funding to unremarkable organizations with extremely narrow goals, purely because they support the administration.

Giving ridiculous amounts of money to abstinence education isn't appalling because these people are evil extremist bastards trying to twist our innocent youth into little Paul Jennings Hills. It's appalling because all independent observation suggests that these people are not really very good at their job, and people who are excellent at that job are getting frozen out because they're not Part Of The Team.
posted by Simon! at 6:40 AM on March 23, 2006


I recognize that Arizona is not representative of the universe of CBAE-funds recipients, but I thought the point should be made

Good point, there are some religious organization and some community-based (whatever that means) orgs who actually do so good to people in need. Excellent ! I welcome that !

But :

a) what are the others orgs doing ? Who keeps track ?

b) how the hell do I keep track and analyze the actions of such organizations ? How do I do that as a citizen, I slap the Pope with a FOIA request ?

c) do they award contracts to friends based on how much they say they love Jesus, or use some rational measurable method ? I suddendly love Jesus for at least 10k reasons.
posted by elpapacito at 7:11 AM on March 23, 2006


jfuller, I'm glad you're (still) here. It's good to have some voices of reason here. Even if I respectfully disagree with you.

You claim that it's better to have equal-opportunity government funded religious charities. I'd rather have the government provide equality of opportunity by itself, without any reilgious influence. Second to that, I'd rather have private charities, sponsored by collecting monies from private citizens. These organizations do tons of good, for many people. I just don't like "hey, you got your peanut butter in my chocolate!" model.
posted by zpousman at 7:24 AM on March 23, 2006


[Charities] tend to have hard working, caring people running them instead of faceless bureaucrats. - Jimbob

Oh fuck off. There are plenty of hard-working, caring public servants, too. Bureaucrats are not 'faceless'. They are people trying to do a good job, help their community, get a paycheque to feed their family and all that stuff like every other person. I'm very tired of the "public servants don't count as people and don't give a shit" meme. They're like employees anywhere else. Some of them are excellent, and some of them suck.
posted by raedyn at 7:44 AM on March 23, 2006


Ask amberglow, who made the original post, whether he's OK with public support of "organizations doing work in Jesus's name." I expect you'll get a different answer.

If I'm wrong, of course, then I'm doing the man an injustice, he's much more reasonable about this than I supposed and I regret the error. How about it, amber?

The problems are: a) they're not giving these grants to organizations who also help people in need, but just happen to be run by liberals or Quakers or Mosques or Liberal Democrats; b) a majority of the 2 billion is going to people who have connections to Bush and GOP campaign apparatus, either thru donations or by serving as conduits to help elect Republicans--which is called patronage and graft in the real world; c) there is no mention of any oversight, and what's specifically mentioned is not about helping people, but about hiring and other administrative things the money is used for, etc; d) there's no proof at all that abstinence education works at all, and proof of the opposite in fact; e) there are real organizations that have seen their funding reduced or eliminated because of this who serve all Americans, unlike these groups; f) some of these orgs only exist to receive these grants, and have no track record of success; g) we have a limited pool of funds so each patronage grant takes away from other orgs who really do help all; and g) these groups are allowed to discriminate in hiring and in who they serve---the most important and most damning thing, in my mind.

We've seen that this administration is not good at oversight or follow-thru---that's true of everything from Iraq to Katrina to PlameGate. Nor is any oversight mentioned.

If an organization can be proven to do good work to help all people in need, it shouldn't matter whether they're doing bec of Jesus or the Spaghetti Monster---these organizations haven't done that, and some were only created to receive these funds (at least that's what the wording in the article told me). Salvation Army is a discriminatory Christian org too, but they have a proven record of helping all who come to them for aid--they're the type of org that deserves money--not some fundraiser for Bush '00 or '04, or some guy who helped the GOP recruit voters at Churches.
posted by amberglow at 7:46 AM on March 23, 2006


Oh, also---some of the pregnancy places have been shown to bait and switch women in need, which is abhorrent and evil--they advertise as places similar to Planned Parenthood only to subject women to damnation and hellfire sermons once in the office, and sometimes string them along until an abortion is not a safe option anymore---not at all in any way a proper use of our money.

...In small and large towns throughout the United States (and all over the Internet), antiabortion groups have set up "crisis pregnancy centers" or "pregnancy counseling centers" or "pregnancy help centers." They are often located near high schools. These centers follow a format suggested by the Pearson Foundation that is deliberately designed to misinform and mislead young women.

Going by the names, Crisis Pregnancy Center, Pregnancy Aid, Birth Right, Open Door, or Pregnancy Counseling Center, these groups want to be the first contact a woman makes when she thinks she might be pregnant, so they can talk her out of considering abortion.

Antiabortion pregnancy centers are listed in the yellow pages under "abortion alternatives." They do NOT provide abortion. Many offer free pregnancy tests or pregnancy counseling as a means to lure you in. On the Internet they also use deceptive names like prochoice.com, and pregnancycenters.org.

Nearly all of these centers are operated by churches or religious organizations. They refer to themselves as a "ministry" to save women's souls.
...
posted by amberglow at 7:50 AM on March 23, 2006


...Unable to shut down legitimate health clinics, the anti-choice movement has created a nationwide network of fake clinics – so-called "crisis pregnancy centers." Many "crisis pregnancy centers" mislead, coerce, and discourage women from exercising their constitutional right to choose. Women who enter these facilities often suffer intimidation and are exposed to anti-choice propaganda and scientifically inaccurate information. Even worse, some "crisis pregnancy centers" receive tax dollars that subsidize their anti-choice political agenda. ...
posted by amberglow at 7:53 AM on March 23, 2006


You can't expect the GOP to play nice. Just get them out of office. Take back your country in 2006. And send them back to the land of Tricky Dick and christian soldiers.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 7:54 AM on March 23, 2006


I'd much rather allocate my charitable giving myself than let some bureaucrat decide which charities are worth spending my taxes on.

Wouldn't anybody?
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:55 AM on March 23, 2006


George Bush made it a central part of his campaign for presidency that faith-based organizations would recieve money. He was elected. He pushed the policy into existence.

This is how the Madisonian system works.

And no. There is nothing wrong with this constitutionally. The Courts have already resolved this issue.
posted by dios at 7:59 AM on March 23, 2006



I miss communism...
posted by zaelic at 8:03 AM on March 23, 2006


George Bush made it a central part of his campaign for presidency that faith-based organizations would recieve money. He was elected

No, he wasn't.
posted by zaelic at 8:05 AM on March 23, 2006


No, he wasn't.
posted by zaelic at 10:05 AM CST on March 23


Have you been in a coma since 1999? He was elected twice.

Oh, wait... you were trying to be funny as opposed to actually adding to the topic at hand, right?
posted by dios at 8:06 AM on March 23, 2006


And no. There is nothing wrong with this constitutionally. The Courts have already resolved this issue.

If the organizations do not provide services to all who need them, and lie about their reasons for existence and the manner of services they perform and have no record of actually performing services, there's plenty wrong, on many levels. All Americans should care how and where our money is spent.
posted by amberglow at 8:07 AM on March 23, 2006


If the organizations kill the people who come there and eat their babies, there's probably something wrong with that, too. But as these programs are run, the Supreme Court looked at this issue and said that you are wrong amberglow.
posted by dios at 8:15 AM on March 23, 2006


If the organizations do not provide services to all who need them, and lie about their reasons for existence and the manner of services they perform and have no record of actually performing services, there's plenty wrong, on many levels. All Americans should care how and where our money is spent.

Two thoughts in response: (1) The article to which you linked in the post does not support the proposition that these organizations discriminate against recipients of aid, lie about their purpose, or fail to provide the services they claim to offer. (2) Even if the organizations did those things, it's far from clear that would rise to the level of a constitutional violation.

The real problem I have with many of these programs is not that they are Christian or that they happen to be Bush supporters, but that they are given millions to promote abstinence-only education, which is demonstrably flawed. While that's also not a constitutional violation, it's appallingly bad policy.

I also have a problem with this:
The Education Department awarded a $750,000 discretionary grant to the GEO Foundation, run by Kevin Teasley, a former staffer at the libertarian Reason Foundation and conservative Heritage Foundation, and conservative Center for the Study of Popular Culture, to "provide outreach and information" on public-school choice.
That's a conservative think-tank type organization that doesn't actually do anything. That seems a likely example of the spoils system at work. You put food on people's table without excessive proselytizing, and I won't care what religion you are or which politicians you support. If, on the other hand, you are some amorphous political think tank that puts out a couple of publications a year? Fuck that. No grants for you.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:21 AM on March 23, 2006


> jfuller, I'm glad you're (still) here. It's good to have some voices of reason
> here. Even if I respectfully disagree with you.

fuller tips hat. And, oh yeah, moderately regrets the "register atheists, not guns" troll. Moderation in all things.

posted by jfuller at 8:31 AM on March 23, 2006


I'd much rather allocate my charitable giving myself than let some bureaucrat decide which charities are worth spending my taxes on.

Hi, Faceless Bureaucrat here. On behalf of FBs everywhere, I'd like to point out that those deciding who gets this "faith based" funding are not FBs but Bush political appointees - partisan hacks whose political connections outweigh their often negligible resumes. (Michael Brown, anyone?) These scumbags are people that the often more qualified, more educated, more experience FBs work *under*.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 8:32 AM on March 23, 2006


The real problem I have with many of these programs is not that they are Christian or that they happen to be Bush supporters, but that they are given millions to promote abstinence-only education, which is demonstrably flawed. While that's also not a constitutional violation, it's appallingly bad policy.

I agree. The analysis is this: faith-based programs will be more effective than the government in advancing Program X. So as a general rule, funding faith-based programs will be more effective than just funding government run programs. But that doesn't get past the question of the value of pursuing Program X. If Program X is feeding the homeless or giving shelter or teaching reading, then funding faith-based programs is good policy because it is effective. If Program X is teaching abstinence, then it is bad policy. Because while a government-run abstinence-teaching program is wholly a waste of money, a faith-based program will be a waste of money too. Just maybe not as much of one. But since it is ineffective, funding that specific program is bad policy. However, the fact that is a bad policy has to do with the substance of the policy as opposed to the fact that money is going to a faith-based program.

I also have a problem with this:

The Education Department awarded a $750,000 discretionary grant to the GEO Foundation, run by Kevin Teasley, a former staffer at the libertarian Reason Foundation and conservative Heritage Foundation, and conservative Center for the Study of Popular Culture, to "provide outreach and information" on public-school choice.


I think that is another bad policy. The government shouldn't be in the game of educating about "public-school choice." There are plenty of private groups which are doing yeoman's work on educating the public about this issue. The government shouldn't be spending money to do it and should focus their money on effective policies. Without government involvement, this debate will fund itself until it is resolved by public decision. But again here, the fact that it is a bad policy has to do with the efficacy of the policy. I don't think there is anything problematic in the fact that money went to a group with a particular political bent. If Kerry was president, and there was a union public education policy through the Department of Labor, I wouldn't surprised or think there is anything problematic about a AFL-CIO or something similar person being charge of it. However, I would find equally fertile grounds in saying it is a bad policy in that instance as well because a public education program on that topic would be a waste of money too. When there is no shortage of information on a topic, there is no need for the government to jump into the arena.
posted by dios at 8:34 AM on March 23, 2006


You can't dismiss the "faith-based" part of this and only look at policy---it's the reason many if not all of these new grant programs exist. They weren't invented to provide the services alone, but to provide grants to religious organizations who may or may not provide the services.
posted by amberglow at 8:38 AM on March 23, 2006


dios wrote: The analysis is this: faith-based programs will be more effective than the government in advancing Program X. So as a general rule, funding faith-based programs will be more effective than just funding government run programs.

This is an assumption you indulge for the purposes of your argument, right? Because I see no evidence that this is in fact true. Indeed, much of the argument against faith-based programs is that giving these grants is sending the money into a blackhole, never to be seen again. Obviously that will vary from one grant-receiving organization to the next.

dios wrote: I think that is another bad policy. The government shouldn't be in the game of educating about "public-school choice."

I think you're missing my point here. For purposes of this objection, I don't care whether educating the public about school choice is a worthy policy goal. My objection is that the organization that receives the money doesn't seem to actually be doing anything with it. Unlike the funding of organizations that do measurable social work, this organization gets $750,000 to write up a few papers. This seems like pure political patronage to me.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:44 AM on March 23, 2006


monju_bosatsu: thank you for the reasonable response that indicates you are interested in a rational and informed dialogue on this topic.

This is an assumption you indulge for the purposes of your argument, right?

No, it is an assumption borne out of the knowledge that there is no greater level of incompetence than something administered by the government. And I'm pretty sure that there have been studies which show that faith-based organizations are more effective at implementing street-level programs.

Indeed, much of the argument against faith-based programs is that giving these grants is sending the money into a blackhole, never to be seen again.

I think that same fact applies to social work, without qualitatively comparing the level of good done between programs. But, we have decided as a society to spend money on social work, so any group of people who show themselves willing to do it, we should give them the opportunity to do so. The idea of a "return" on the investment is non-existent in social work.

Unlike the funding of organizations that do measurable social work, this organization gets $750,000 to write up a few papers. This seems like pure political patronage to me.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:44 AM CST on March 23


I think I understand what you are saying, and I agreed above that I think it is a bad policy because spending $750k on some papers to educate the public is a bad policy and does seem like patronage. It is an inefficient use of resources by the government. What I was merely saying is that it is a bad policy independent of who got the money. Paying a non-partisan group $750k is equally bad policy. If you want to try to isolate to what extent the policy is made worse because it goes to a group with the same political views of the administration, I think it is relatively small. That is the way politics and politicians have always worked. If Bush wants to push choice, which is what he campaigned for, and he decides to waste money to push the position, I don't think it is surprising or problematic that he hires a group to do so that agrees with him. Politicians have a right, if not duty, to push the policies it campaigned on and people voted for. So in pushing this policy, the use of like-minded people seems like an almost certainty. Again, the problem is that the policy exists at all which seems like nothing more than throwing some money at a pointless activity.
posted by dios at 9:03 AM on March 23, 2006


No, it is an assumption borne out of the knowledge that there is no greater level of incompetence than something administered by the government. And I'm pretty sure that there have been studies which show that faith-based organizations are more effective at implementing street-level programs.

Ah, the old saw about government incompetence. While I generally agree that on average, government bureaucracies tend to be less efficient than private institutions, that is by no means a guarantee that any specific private institution will be more efficient than its governmental counterpart.

As for studies, as far as I know, there are few studies showing any improved efficacy of FBOs over government programs. This is partly due, however, to the lack of government programs competing in many of the niches in which FBOs provide services. There are, however, studies that show that FBOs tend to be less effective than non-FBO service providers, at least in certain areas.

What I was merely saying is that it is a bad policy independent of who got the money. Paying a non-partisan group $750k is equally bad policy.

I disagree. It's certainly true that if the program is bad policy, it's bad policy no matter who spends the $750,000. However, I have two additional objections. (1) To the extent the program is not bad policy, the recipient of the political patronage, at least in this case, seems to be doing very little with the money. Indeed, this seems to be one area in which the government could have spent the money more efficiently. (2) Giving the grant as political patronage is far worse than merely wasting the money on bad policy by giving it to a non-partisan group, because while giving the $750k to a non-partisan group is surely a waste as to that $750k, the grant of the money to a partisan supporter of the administration is indicative of a culture of political patronage that affects not just this $750k, but potentially all grants handed out by the administration. Cleaning up bad policy is much easier than cleaning up a grant mechanism corrupted by political influence.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:18 AM on March 23, 2006


While I generally agree that on average, government bureaucracies tend to be less efficient than private institutions, that is by no means a guarantee that any specific private institution will be more efficient than its governmental counterpart.

I think I was speaking generally. It would be incorrect for me to argue that it was a firm rule. All the same, I think the value of program comes down to the efficacy of a particular program in the final analysis. I don't think whether the program was faith-based or not effect that policy analysis. And it certainly doesn't effect the legal analysis.

Cleaning up bad policy is much easier than cleaning up a grant mechanism corrupted by political influence.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 11:18 AM CST on March 23


I think I understand your point better, and I don't disagree with you. I suppose there are multiple ways of reading the paragraph cited. One way would read it to be saying "I want to funnel you money, so lets make up some pretext of you writing a paper or something, and I'll send you the money." I think that reading gives rise your patronage/corrpution argument, and I would agree that if that is what is going on, then that is bad in and of itself. Another way to read that is for it to be saying, "We said we would push policy X, so lets get our friend over at Institute Y to write some position papers for us. And since we are the government, we overpay like crazy." This is the reading that my analysis is based on. And if that is what is going on, I stand by my analysis.

Now the truth may be in between those two readings somewhere. But if it so that this is all mere ruse, then I would agree with your analysis. But I suspect that this is something more along the lines of leaders pursuing a position they said they would purse, and getting like-minded people to pursue it. And we all know, the government is notorious for over-paying for things. If that is what happened, I don't find it problematic except for the fact it is a bad policy in toto for the government to be engaged in this kind of things. And because it lends itself to the appearance of impropriety you are finding in it, that is a further indictment of the policy.
posted by dios at 9:36 AM on March 23, 2006


I think we're basically on the same page now, at least with respect to those two points.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:39 AM on March 23, 2006


Jimbob: Actually, from a less cynical point of view, there are reasons why you might want a diverse range of charities operating. They all have their strengths, some of them operate in specific local areas, or with particular needy groups. And they tend to have hard working, caring people running them instead of faceless bureaucrats.

I can see that as an argument for a decentralized social welfare system with a large degree of autonomy at the level of state and local governments, who presumably are more likely to be familiar with their area's specific problems than at the federal level. But from the few people I knew working on the local level of social services in the UK (not a perfect system, but I've yet to meet a Brit who would trade the welfare state for our weird social darwinism), they certainly were not faceless bureaucrats, but knew their area and its specific problems as well as anyone.
posted by bcveen at 2:27 PM on March 23, 2006


Is this not a case of local policy coming more closely into line with US foreign policy (despite the fact that said policy could be regarded as un-constitutional within the US)?

Late last year, the Mexico City Policy, or 'global gag', whereby U.S. funding of foreign non-governmental organizations that work on safe abortion issues is denied, appears to have been extended to the fight against HIV/AIDS, despite previous assurances by the Bush administration to the contrary. Genderhealth provide some breakdown of the impact. More information here at globalgagrule.org.

Using emergency overseas funding as a political tool to satiate your electoral base is, in my opinion, scandalous.
posted by davehat at 12:02 AM on March 24, 2006


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