Editorial: COVID relief bill includes not-so-obvious expenditures 

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 31, 2020

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I was somewhat amused at the Facebook uproar over the recent COVID relief bill.

It included a government spending plan that sent millions to overseas countries and other expenditures here that are questionable.

Why did the Facebook uproar amuse me?

This has been going on for a long, long time. We’ll give money to just about any country and any cause. And our government loves to tack these expenditures onto bills that have nothing to do with the title.

Among the questionable expenditures, especially during a pandemic when the American people need the aid:

• $10 million for gender programs in Pakistan. I don’t even want to know the details of this one. Get rid of it.

• Countries got “foreign aid” as well, including $86 million to Cambodia, $130 million to Nepal, $135 million to Burma, $453 million to Ukraine, and $700 million to Sudan. Not sure of the details of these payments, either, but it seems excessive, now more than ever.

• $40 million designated for use by the Kennedy Center. I’ll admit, the shows from there that make it onto television are spectacular, but for goodness sake, the place isn’t even open now.

• $2 billion towards the Space Force. You’ve got to think President Donald Trump is behind this one. I kind of wish they had named one of the COVID vaccines the Trump Vaccine, because it’s obvious he wants his name on something in this country for generations to come. Obama got ObamaCare, and The Wall that certainly would have been named after Trump didn’t completely happen. Trump wants to be the president remembered for something spectacular. Sure, to even run for president, one has to like themselves. But Trump took that attribute too far. I’m not sure he can even help himself.

• Horse racing even made it in, with money for an anti-doping and medication control program for horse racing, as well as a race track safety program. I’ve nothing against horses, but really?

• Funding for research on the 1908 Springfield Race Riot. And like that will make us learn from our past mistakes. We can’t even learn from last week’s mistakes.

• Establishing something to educate consumers about the dangers of storing portable fuel containers near an open flame. Why? Maybe not establishing that campaign would help thin the herd, so to speak. Are we that dumb? Looking at election results — maybe we are.

• $250 million over five years for Palestinian economic aid. They may need it, but why us? Does every country pitch in?

• It includes $500 million toward Israeli defense. The Israeli defense doesn’t mess around — and they’re just as wealthy as we are. Maybe it is to keep them friendly.

• $1.3 billion on border wall funding. Maybe Trump can get his name on something, after all. I’m not against this one. While I disagree with Trump pretty much making up nasty things about illegal immigrants, we do need to know who’s entering our country and all of those entries should be done legally. If a wall is needed, build it. If more boots on the ground are needed, hire them. But don’t over-exaggerate the problem — or under-exaggerate the problem — just to get votes or political favor.

• $35 billion for clean energy research and development. This sounds good on the surface, but we may be rushing too quickly into this clean energy thing. Solar farms are becoming a problem nationwide, including here in Davie County where one seems to pop up every few months. I’m all for clean energy, but we should be honest with people. How much energy is used to make these solar panels? What is their life span? What types of materials are they made of? In other words, do they degrade or will they just pile up in landfills? Are there any hazardous materials in these panels? Quit mandating clean energy percentages for electric companies. That’s one of the reason things got out of control too fast. And those tax credits for solar shouldn’t be given out too freely, it leads to bad actors.

• And, oh yes, it puts $600 into the pocket of every American making $75,000 a year or less. Maybe that’s why they called it the COVID relief bill.

Our government works in mysterious ways.

Mike Barnhardt is editor of the Davie County Enterprise-Record.