Want to have some fun with grants while at the same time learning about U.S. priorities? Head over to Grants.gov and type in Autism in the search box. You’ll find 61 grant opportunities; of these 61, 36 expired before 2010, leaving 35 valid. Now, of the 35 that are left, dig around and see how many of them actually deal with Autism in specific and how many deal with the population of “Special Education” in general. Did you come up with a number of Autism specific ones you can count on one and a half hands?
Now go back to the search box and type in USAID. You’ll find 356; of these, 236 are expired, leaving 120 grants to foreign countries that are active. Now for the fun part – let’s compare the grants, shall we?
The coolest grant I find when I search for “autism” is one titled “Research on Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders”. Pretty standard, really; sadly, that’s about the most interesting one since I’m not interested in looking at grants for Autism that are sponsored by the Department of Defense. USAID, however, is where the real gold is kept.
For example, how about the grant entitled “INCREASE PARTICIPATION OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES”…in Uganda. Why Uganda? What about, “Strengthening Ecuadorian Justice Project” in Peru? Is that something that should actually take precedence over strengthening justice in the States? “Access to Justice and Human Rights in Kyrgyzstan”, “HIV Prevention for At-Risk Populations in Russia”, “Ghana Transition and Persistence (TAP) Program”, and (one of my absolute favorites) “Expansion of Safe Male Circumcision Services to Prevent HIV in Botswana under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief”?
I get that everything listed above from USAID is important to someone around the world, but it’s time for us to start taking a cold, calculating look at our country’s spending habits and ask what actually benefits us the most in the long run. We aren’t the world’s banker; we haven’t been that for a long, long time. Instead, we’re acting like the kid on the block who just got a job and wants to impress all the hot chicks by buying them things, only he’s learned that he doesn’t have enough cash to do what he wants so he uses his credit card instead. In Biblical terms, we’re the prodigal son who spends his inheritance to make his friends like him, only we don’t have a loving father figure to return to once our cash runs out.
Okay, so what’s my point? How about this: as important as someone thinks circumcision is to the world’s health, I’d like to suggest that my American tax dollars go to the problem of Autism instead. I’m not saying, “Keep all American money in America!”; I *am* saying, “Use my precious tax dollars for something that will be of direct benefit to my country and my fellow citizens.” If this problem is so large that the President promised to appoint an Autism Czar (who, by the way, has yet to materialize), then we might want to consider having more than 35 grants to help study the issue.
Can we all agree that our priorities should lean more towards American brains than Botswana…well, never mind. I don’t think anyone will mind if I just cut that one short.