In Advocate Washington correspondent Gerard Shields’ column of July 11, Shields reports that “The TRIO Talent Search Program will provide $4 million grants to nine university campuses in Louisiana. The award was announced by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.”

Since Shields describes this as a “federal program,” I presume that this program is funded with federal tax dollars. This well-meaning program converts our tax dollars into so-called federal money that is sent back to the states to “provide academic, career and financial counseling to low-income students and encourage them to graduate from high school and continue on to complete a college education.”

Since when is “counseling” a responsibility of the federal government? Why do we send tax money to Washington to have it sent back to us at the state and local level to do things we should be doing for ourselves or doing through existing state and local agencies and institutions? I will also presume that a dollar that goes up does not turn into a dollar coming down as there must be administrative costs, salaries and so on to manage this program and other programs like it. What is the cost of having the federal government manage our money for us?

I understand that Department of Defense, Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid are the biggest consumers of tax dollars and cause the greatest problems with balancing the federal budget and deficit. However, I propose that a careful study of federal spending will find large numbers of dollars being sent to the federal government to be returned to the states at the whim of Congress and the federal authorities to be spent on programs that are not responsibilities of the federal government as spelled out in the Constitution. Bread and circuses? Programs such as TRIO are examples of federal spending out of control, and these kinds of programs exist in large numbers across the federal government.

However, with all the hand-wringing associated with the current state of the federal deficit, many will still see reports such as this as good news. Our senator got federal money for us. This is not a criticism of our esteemed U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, but a criticism of a tax-and-spend system that can twist the Constitution to provide legitimacy for any federal spending, for whatever purpose.

August J. Amoroso Jr.

Lt. Col., U.S. Army (retired)

Baton Rouge