The current debate surrounding grant funding for the Special Olympics is an excellent case study of why our country will probably never get out of debt.
In case you missed it, there’s been a fair amount of outrage over the Department of Education’s budget proposal to cut $18 million in federal grant money to the Special Olympics. The proposed budget states that “such activities are better supported with other federal, state, local or private funds.”
On Wednesday, Education Secretary DeVos responded to widespread criticism of the proposed spending reduction with a statement saying:
The Special Olympics is not a federal program. It’s a private organization. I love its work, and I have personally supported its mission. Because of its important work, it is able to raise more than $100 million every year. There are dozens of worthy nonprofits that support students and adults with disabilities that don’t get a dime of federal grant money. But given our current budget realities, the federal government cannot fund every worthy program, particularly ones that enjoy robust support from private donations.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., confronted DeVos on the proposed spending reforms during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Thursday and said that whoever came up with the idea for the cuts “gets a Special Olympic gold medal for insensitivity.”
Department of Education Sec. Betsy DeVos says she did not personally “get involved” in $18 million cut in funding for the Special Olympics: “We had to make tough choices and decisions around the budget priorities.” https://t.co/0yRZd4RLbp pic.twitter.com/rdM6xGaSuk
— ABC News (@ABC) March 28, 2019
DeVos responded to Durbin’s questions by saying that she wasn’t personally involved in that decision and that she hopes that the debate drives more private donations to the organization. She added: “Let’s not use disabled children in a twisted way for your political narrative. That is just disgusting and it’s shameful.”
Furthermore, according to a report at Politico, DeVos has even been an advocate against cutting the grant funding for years.
But Durbin’s not alone. Multiple congressional Democrats have used the news to score points against the administration.
— New Day (@NewDay) March 28, 2019
!!! Five Trump trips to Mar-a-Lago would cover Betsy Devos’s proposed Special Olympics cuts https://t.co/D6fpF50MB9
— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) March 28, 2019
I see Betsy DeVos and the GOP are doubling down on their Anti-Everybody agenda by working to cut Fed funding for *the Special Olympics.*
The good news? You elected a House Dem majority, so we can halt it.
Now: who are your favorite disability advocates to follow? Share below ⬇️ https://t.co/8LSl5RSed7
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 28, 2019
In @BetsyDeVosED’s budget, there are major cuts to programs like the Special Olympics. Sec. DeVos didn’t know the number of kids who would be hurt by that cut, so I made sure she now knows that 272,000 kids are seeing their support taken away. pic.twitter.com/6ZiOfDU4Ou
— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) March 26, 2019
Appropriations subcommittee chair Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., responded to the controversy by saying, “Our Department of Education appropriations bill will not cut funding for the program.”
NEW: In stmt, Sen @RoyBlunt, who chairs the Approps Subcmte which sets funding levels for Dept of Education, says of cuts to Special Olympics in Trump budget: "Our Department of Education appropriations bill will not cut funding for the program." pic.twitter.com/MIXHyUchPk
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) March 27, 2019
This is a classic case-study example of why we’ll never deal with our national debt crisis (and it IS a crisis).
As I’ve said before, the cuts have to come from somewhere, and the federal leviathan has become so massive and intrusive that there is literally no proposed spending cut that won’t affect someone in this country. And there’s no portion of the federal budget for which advocates can’t or won’t use emotional pleas to avoid spending reductions. But the cuts still have to come from somewhere.
And when emotional arguments are made about sympathetic subjects of proposed spending reductions, the headlines, press releases, and outraged social media posts pretty much write themselves.
So, let’s take the emotion out of this argument for a while. The question isn’t who does or doesn’t care about kids with disabilities; it’s whether or not it makes sense for a country that is over $22 trillion in debt and facing projected trillion-dollar deficits to fund any successful private charity, regardless of what its mission is.
Finally, since we went without a Federal Department of Education for the first 203 years of our republic, it’s more than valid to question whether or not we need to spend the operational costs of the agency itself. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., has a bill to terminate it, by the way.
The Special Olympics is a great organization that does some important work. If the politicians and pundits who have used this story to light up the political scoreboard plan on still caring about the Special Olympics’ operating budget when the news cycle moves on to the next font of outrage, consider this an open invitation to join me at next year’s Polar Plunge.