Spending habits must be checked

In 2005, Alaska Airlines received a $500,000 federal grant to paint a giant fish on the side of the company’s planes. The airline frequently shipped Alaskan seafood to other parts of the world, and the grant was given to boost the economy of Alaska through the “Salmon-Thirty-Salmon” planes jetting across the sky.

In Newark, N.J., a $250,000 Homeland Security grant paid for the town’s garbage trucks to be equipped with air conditioning. Another Homeland Security grant paid for leather jackets for police in Washington, D.C. And don’t even get me started on the ridiculous waste in our court systems.

However, when news came across my desk the other day that federal funding for a research project to boost the declining number of juvenile crabs in the Chesapeake Bay was being lost, I completely lost my mind.

Isn’t this what the government is supposed to be spending money on — improving the quality of life for its citizens?

I can almost understand the funding for Alaska Airlines in that is an effort to boost the state’s export economy. A little frivelous, and the money could have been placed elsewhere in my opinion, but I kind of see what the government was doing there. But, if that was the point of the funding, why can’t the Center of Marine Biotechnology at the Inner Harbor get money to boost this entire region’s economy?

Since 2002, the project has received $15 million in federal funds to conduct research on the blue crab and to place young crabs into the bay to attempt to boost the flagging numbers and learn more about their migration habits. Granted, the Delmarva area has become an economy based largely on real estate in recent years, but the seafood industry has long been synonymous with this area — particularly in regards to the blue crab.

Again, isn’t this where federal grants should go?

Frankly, I’m tired of it. I’m sick of seeing $40 million being spent on television advertising for presidential primaries in Iowa, and I’m tired of watching federal grants go to seemingly random spending, while significant and important avenues go undriven. Remember the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? Just look up that region on the Internet today. It’s still decimated. Yet we continue to spend on frivelous endeavors.

I’m not the most environmentally-sensitive guy. Don’t get me wrong — I do care. I just don’t actually put anything significant into motion in my personal life to improve my environmental footprint. It’s more laziness than apathy, but I guess if I was really driven to improve, I would.

But why can’t we spend money on improving the numbers of blue crabs in our bays? Why can’t we write a check to improve the lives of people affected by hurricanes? Why do we have to basically beg, borrow and steal to secure funding for beach replenishment in this area — not so much for the aesthetic and practical purposes of having a bigger beach for tourism, but for public safety purposes?

It’s tiring, isn’t it?

I’ve heard candidate after candidate during this primary season discuss the needs for improved health care in this nation, and a system that allows more of our citizens to have access to medical care. There have even been some intriguing plans to do just that. However, and I can’t stress this enough, if they don’t get a handle on some of the superfluous spending, there simply won’t be any money to do much of anything.

I’ve always been of the opinion that our government has three roles — protect our borders, create and enforce laws, and improve the quality of life for the citizens. That being said, there are a few no-brainers the government should always follow:

• Protect people. If building a bigger beach or funding local police departments can save lives, that’s a no-brainer.

• Protect industry. If industries thrive, people have jobs. That isn’t very difficult to understand. If a little federal funding can boost a region’s economy, make it happen.

• Protect people (Part 2). Splurge on medical research, but for the prevention or elimination of diseases — not some silly research project that studies what part of the ham provides the most nourishmentto decathletes, as opposed to finding the best possible remedies for cancer, AIDS or infant mortality.

• Protect weekly columnists. Oh, we are a dying breed. Weekly columnists should have enough money for food, shelter and custom hair plugs — but not necessarily in that order. I mean, that little picture is so important to the message we’re trying to send, and if all people see is a chrome dome and a smirk ...

But I digress.

• Protect our borders. I’m not against immigration. Heck, I’m all for people having the golden opportunities that this nation provides. But we have to get a handle on who is coming in and going out of our borders. I’m not against that worker coming in from Mexico to support his or her family — but I don’t feel real confident that we can stop a terrorist from making the same trek.

We have to get to a place where we stop rider bills and other items of nuisance that prevent viable and important efforts to not receive greatly-needed funds, while less-deserving entities get funding.

Common sense, government. Give it a whirl.