The Corner

The Sequester and Taxpayer-Funded iPads

Last Thursday, five members of President Obama’s cabinet testified at the Senate Appropriations Committee about the cataclysmic effects that the sequester would have on their agencies and the nation. Now comes this, from an article about how school gym classes are incorporating cognitive tasks in order to boost students’ academic skills: 

Chellie LaFayette, the physical education teacher at Roxhill Elementary in Seattle, used an iPad purchased with a federal grant to show her students pictures of the Iditarod sled dog race and maps of mountain ranges for which she had named routes on a climbing wall.

Let’s leave aside the dubious wisdom of this latest educational fad. Why are taxpayers in Duluth paying for iPads for Seattle gym teachers so that they can display cool Internet pictures of mountain ranges (because of course only an image on an iPad will do)? The costs of the federal bureaucracy alone required to gin up the idea for the grant, put out the request for proposals from school districts, review the submissions, and manage the grants would be huge, beyond the costs of the iPads and whatever other booty the federal government is redistributing among certain lucky schools with taxpayer dollars collected from far and wide. 

A federal government with enough money to buy iPads for local gym teachers is not a federal government that has been cut to the bone. 

Likewise, a federal government that can send employees from the Interior Department, the Agriculture Department, the Defense Department, the Federal Trade Commission, the Justice Department, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to serve on its already crowded anti-bullying task force is not a government whose skeletal workforce can barely complete the core functions assigned to it.  

The Seattle Iditarod iPad is a synecdoche. Imagine rising up all around it layers upon layers of federal bureaucrats, ensconced in their massive Washington buildings, pushing obscure programs whose effectiveness is never evaluated, while dreaming up yet more ways to spend taxpayer dollars and you have an image of a government whose claim of penury rings hollow.  

Heather Mac Donald — Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and the author of the New York Times bestseller The War on Cops

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