News & Politics

The Death of 'Meals on Wheels'? Not Even Close

(Stew Milne/AP Images for Hasbro, Inc. and Meals on Wheels America)

Anytime the president or Congress attempts to cut a few dollars from the federal budget, the wails of pain and anguish can be heard from one end of the country to the other. You’re killing the poor/aged/sick/homeless/disabled/women/ and children, children, children!

Sheesh, what a bunch of meanies we are.

In previous attempts to rein in federal spending, the “cuts” have largely been reductions in the annual increases to those budgets. In other words, even though more dollars were being spent in the fiscal year the cuts were to occur than in the previous budget, the annual rate of increase in that spending was reduced.

Liberals consider this a cut because all federal programs — like the roses in your garden — have an absolute right to grow.

And you wonder how federal spending got out of control?

President Trump is looking to change all that. He is looking to make absolute cuts — actual reductions in spending that would eliminate monies for entire programs. Because he plans on increasing budgets for other departments, including Defense, there will be no overall reduction in federal spending. But the idea is revolutionary enough that it has liberals and every special interest group from here to Timbuktu squealing like a hog dragged away from the feeding trough.

The current target of liberal ire is the proposed elimination of funding for Community Development Block Grants — a $3 billion budgetary item from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Contained within those grants is money for the “Meals on Wheels” program that performs the noble task of feeding elderly Americans who usually live alone and either can’t afford food or prepare foods due to infirmity.

Liberals have hit the ceiling, claiming that President Trump wants to totally eliminate the program and force seniors to eat dog food or something.

Forbes’ Erik Sherman explains why that’s a crock:

But the situation is complicated and saying that the budget eliminates the Meals on Wheels program is factually incorrect. According to the Meals on Wheels annual IRS filing for 2015 (it isn’t a government program), approximately 3.3% of its funding comes from government sources. Most is from corporate and foundation grants, with individual contributions the second-largest source. Government grants are actually the fifth-largest source of revenue.

If its portions of block grants were eliminated, the program wouldn’t suddenly disappear. However, the organization says that it already cannot keep up with growing demand from seniors who need help. In addition, Meals on Wheels passes funding down to 5,000 local groups that provide food, and they additionally might be affected by the funding cut.

Will there be consequences for the program (and others, obviously)? Of course. However, resorting to hysteria is dangerous, and that is happening, both among many on the political left and some media outlets. Such statements can make valid criticism look uninformed and foolish.

Instead, people who are concerned need to dig into the specifics of what is happening, understand the real implications, and then address those.

In a perfect world, state and local governments would pick up the slack in funding the local groups, since they should have been funding them in the first place. And the 3% shortfall for the national organization would be made up by contributions from Bill Gates and the other tech gazillionaires.

But we don’t live in a perfect world. It has become far too easy over the decades since the 1960s to turn to Washington to run programs that states and local governments could manage better and more efficiently. This is the essence of federalism — what liberals derisively (and deliberately) refer to as “states’ rights.” But this was the method designed by the founders to keep too much power from being concentrated in the hands of the federal government with its army of unelected bureaucrats and legions of lobbyists and political enablers.

In a modern, 21st-century, industrialized, urban democracy, state and local governments cannot — and should not be expected to — take over all the social programs managed by Washington. But they can certainly fill in the gaps in funding for these block grants if they have the political courage to set  priorities when budgeting for their states.

Trump won’t get all the budget cuts he wants and that’s how it should be. The House of Representatives is in charge of the purse and will make decisions on where our tax dollars are to be spent.

But the president’s budget is a shot across the bow targeting the professional government class, who have become experts at extracting money from Washington politicians for their pet causes.

The free ride is over.