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Federal Funding going to projects in Grand Rapids is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of money taken from Grand Rapidians to finance the US Military

January 9, 2023

On Saturday, MLive posted the following story, See which Grand Rapids-area projects got $17.3M in congressional earmarks.

The article, which essentially provides a list of the projects that will receive funding from the federal spending bill. Some of the projects, like the one with the United Methodist Community House are important for the community, but several of the others listed are questionable in terms of who they really benefit.

However, the reason why I wanted to talk about the MLive article, was not so much about what the article said, but what it didn’t say.

The MLive article did mention that the $17.3 million for projects in Grand Rapids was part of the, “$1.7 trillion spending bill signed by President Joe Biden last month.” The massive spending bill for fiscal year 2023, known on Capitol Hill as an omnibus, provides $772.5 billion for non-defense, domestic programs and $858 billion in defense funding. It includes roughly $45 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine and NATO allies and roughly $40 billion to respond to natural disasters like hurricanes, wildfires and flooding. 

Therefore, the first major omission in the MLive article, is the fact that more than half of the $1.7 trillion spending bill goes to the US Military, which will receive $858 Billion. 

At the end of the article, it mentions that information about the funding for the Grand Rapids projects came from Senator Debbie Stabenow. Senator Stabenow has consistently voted for the US Military portion of the country’s annual budget, which is always more than non-military related budget items. While Senator Stabenow’s office provided MLive with information on which projects in Grand Rapids were receiving federal dollars, it is deeply problematic that MLive fails to mention that Senator Stabenow also signed off on more than 50% of the spending bill would go to the US Military, which is the second major omission.

A third major omission in this MLive article is the fact that they failed to report that more federal tax dollars leave Grand Rapids than what comes back. In this $1.7 trillion spending bill, just $17.3 Million is earmarked for Grand Rapids. According to the National Priorities Project, in 2021, Michigan taxpayers paid out $19.35 Billion for the US Military alone, with $370.66 Million coming from Grand Rapids and going to the US Military. It seems to me that when Grand Rapids taxpayers had $370.66 Million of their tax dollars go to militarism, but only getting $17.3 million in federally funded projects, that is deeply unjust and not equitable at all.

The last major omission in the MLive article is all about missing out on possibilities. If the MLive reported had decided to look at the bigger picture of the federal spending bill and fleshed out for MLive readers how little money comes back to Grand Rapids and how much money goes towards the US Military, imagine the possibilities for Grand Rapidians. 

People who constantly talk about funding disparities in Grand Rapids would have been great resources for the MLive reporter to further discuss funding priorities. Grassroots organizers in the Black community could have talked about how federal spending ultimately perpetuates structural racism, housing advocated could have talked about how federal funding could provide enough money to end the affordable housing crisis, and climate activists could have talked about using federal funding for mass transit and more renewable energy options. We desperate need this kind of journalism, a journalism that stretches our imagination and challenges official narratives. 

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