Tribal Lands Receive $1 Billion in Broadband Grants
Since President Joe Biden took office a few months ago, his spending has been greater than any other president at any point in history, even adjusted for inflation. Whether that's a good thing or bad, time will tell. But while President Biden doesn't seem to be much on giving public addresses, the news has a new report every day about some spending plan he has. The latest: $1 billion in federal grants to provide high-speed Internet access (broadband) to Native American tribal lands.
Vice President Kamala Harris announced this on behalf of the Biden Administration June 3. It's part of the plan of the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications sector to increase everyone's access to high-speed Internet in a changing digital landscape. So, of course, as most people heard about this or will read about it via the Internet, the vast majority of people believe it's a good thing.
When it comes to the supposed numbers of Native Americans on tribal lands who do not have access to high-speed Internet, the numbers are highly disputed. Some say around a third of people do not have access, while others argue the number is much higher, and that some tribal lands do not have any broadband coverage.
One wishes that objectively good things would roll from government's lips from time to time. Taking the story on its face, and hearing "The government will help with $1 billion for broadband" sounds amazing. Natives deserve as much coverage as anyone else gets in any area. However, because we're speaking about government here, the word "grant" is very misleading.
Basically, the government has earmarked $1 billion in funding that will go directly to the government so that the government can hire public-sector workers to install government-approved broadband while the government oversees the project.
Just speaking purely economically, no ideological bent to it, the government is the biggest waster of money this world has ever seen. Bridges to nowhere and trillion-dollar wars and offering more money to foreign governments than its own citizens. One has to put in check their sympathy for Native Americans and understand that this grant may result in nothing but a bunch of politicians getting new cars.
This isn't meant to be cynical; though it would be remiss of anyone reporting on this story not to highlight in detail the waste and corruption that has plagued America for decades under massive government spending.
Good Money After Bad?
Some of the most heated political debates in America's history have been over government's role in providing things for people vs. the private market's role in enabling people to provide for themselves. Though when speaking about Native Americans, it's a topic that gets muddied entirely due to the unique nature of tribal lands. Obviously things that happened to Native Americans were utterly atrocious and unforgivable. And it serves no purpose to judge those years by today's modern morality. Suffice to say it was bad; it's a wrong that should be righted, like so many others casting shadows upon the nation's flag.
Though there are also undeniable facts of mathematics to consider. Pure numbers; no emotion, no special pleading; just numbers. Historically speaking, the more money that the American government has thrown into Native lands to help, either with things like education or healthcare, the more it has harmed the Native people in the long run.
Of course, you cannot remove emotion from these topics. When people hear that Native Americans have a problem, the average person demands government do something. When government fails, and when problems get worse, the average person's emotions get even stronger and they insist that the government simply did not do enough. If only they had given more, things would be better!
Speaking factually about the matter, however, Native America tribes that do well financially have all been given the rights to operate businesses on their lands as sovereigns; i.e. casinos and racetracks and charter schools and banks. The Natives that do not have their own private enterprises and rely on government funding? Well, that's where we find 100% of the tribal lands without broadband, and where we find lower life expectancies and poorer health.
So while many people believe a $1B grant promise is a great thing that will help, mathematics suggests the exact opposite. Everyone hopes the results will be different this time. Though using successful tribal lands as a template, perhaps the government would be best to just allow Native Americans to open up their own broadband company.