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Why not spend money to support youth activities?

August 22, 2009|By TIM ROWLAND

I didn't see the movie "Mary Poppins," but for some reason I had the soundtrack. It was an album filled, as I recall, with bad music and good advice.

Aside from the spoonful of sugar, there was the interesting vignette where M.P. tricks the banker dude into taking his children to see his place of business -- a fact that irks him to no end once he realizes he was duped.

It takes Bert, the chimney sweep, to talk him down off the ledge (and make him feel like a shrew) for being so chintzy with his time for the kids.

This scene comes to mind as it applies to the bemusing debate over whether we should spend tiny sums of tax money to help pay the travel expenses of the families of young baseball players whose teams have advanced to regional competition.

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My goodness, get Ron Paul on the line, here is the most egregious waste of public funding that ever was. My stars, this must be a whopping three or four ten-thousandths of our entire county budget. And for what? Children? And their families? This makes the Bridge to Nowhere look like the Jaws of Life.

Back to the real world. I have no real problem with people who fuss about every last tax dollar governments spend -- so long as they vow not to take Social Security or Medicare in retirement. If they promise not to complain when there's a pothole on their street. If they send their children to private school. If they refuse to fly out of a federally funded airport. If they only eat food that has not been subsidized by a federal agriculture program, and so on.

But it is wearying to listen to the complaints of people who happily accept government assistance that helps them, but turn around and begrudge government assistance that helps others.

As it says in the Bible, "Let he who is without government benefit cast the first line-item veto."

But if you want to allow yourselves to get ulcers over the fact that someone out there is getting something that you're not, feel free. The more important side of this issue is it's hard to think of a better use for the money in question: That is, promoting family unity and physical activity for children. We are in painfully short supply of both.

A recent study showed that seven out of 10 children are lacking in Vitamin D, a malady that could be cured by spending a mere five minutes a day in the sunshine. To those of us who virtually grew up outdoors, it's almost inconceivable that children could have turned into such vampires, but it seems to be the case.

The widespread implications of Vitamin D deficiency (not to mention the monumental public expense of treating the resulting diseases) would suggest we should be spending more money on youth sports, not less. If that means encouraging families to help their children stay active, I fail to see this as a waste.

In a technology-driven, indoor world, sports and exercise cannot be thought of as frivolous. And certainly, travel in support of these youths is no more frivolous than local government officers and employees traveling hither and yon on the taxpayer dime to all manner of conferences and glorified cocktail parties of dubious worth.

When these youths succeed, when they win, I don't believe it is asking too much of the taxpaying public to show a small token of appreciation. This goes for baseball, science fairs or spelling bees, too. Understandably, people are down on welfare-like programs and funding that essentially reward people for doing nothing. Conversely, however, it should pay to achieve.

It's beneficial -- and in the grand scheme of things, not terribly expensive -- to propagate a local environment where a youngster's success is rewarded, and fostered, by support from the community. And if a parent gets a free weekend in a hotel on money that otherwise would have been used to mow the grass along the road in front of my house, I can live with that because I can, in some small way, share in that family's joy.

This world, I've noticed, isn't all about me.

And for those who still would argue in favor of the Scroogification of the county, just consider these young people whom you would deny your money today will be the ones who are working and paying your Social Security check tomorrow.

As the old adage says, be kind to your children because one day, they will be selecting your nursing home.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under opinion@herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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