Washington is once again facing a potential shutdown. Funding for the federal government will run out in early March unless the House and Senate can bridge their differences and pass spending legislation.

At the same time, the city of San Francisco seems to have few problems doling out huge amounts to well-connected activist groups and hard-left ideologues.

While those two realities might seem disconnected, there are important links between them.

Disagreements over federal spending focus on how to divide taxpayer dollars between national defense, veterans benefits, and the bureaucracies that operate a nearly endless array of social and economic programs.

While spending bills crafted by House Republicans would impose commonsense cuts to many wasteful and unnecessary programs, the Senate’s bills are loaded with budget gimmicks and pork-barrel projects.

The federal government isn’t the only source of political pork. Many states and localities also play fast and loose with public resources.

A pair of recent stories from San Francisco have highlighted the wealthy city’s severe mismanagement.

On Feb. 8, the city celebrated that it had lowered the cost of a public restroom from $1.7 million to $725,000, when a more reasonable fee would be a fraction of that amount.

On Feb. 9, the website Pirate Wires released an expose on San Francisco’s $100 million-per-year web of bureaucrats and left-wing nonprofit groups that focus on political crusades such as gender ideology, “racial equity,” and identity-based cash handouts.

It would be one thing if these were purely paid for by residents of the high-wealth city. However, San Francisco benefits from the more than $1.2 trillion in transfers that the federal government gives to state and local governments every year.

Many of these federal programs for localities are captured by ideologues.

The Highway Trust Fund now pays for frivolities such as hiking trails and bike lanes, and the Biden administration has added inappropriate carve-outs for “environmental justice” and “diversity, equity, and inclusion” to infrastructure projects.

Tens of billions of federal dollars per year for social services, welfare, and “community development” provide means for local politicians to dole out favors while trapping poor neighborhoods in cycles of dependency.

The Biden administration has gone out of its way to exacerbate this problem, illegally extending a COVID-19 program that is little more than a slush fund for state and local governments.

Freebies from Washington make space for mischief in local budgets. Without Uncle Sam’s payola, cities would either have to raise taxes (which is already driving waves of people out of California) or focus their spending on real responsibilities.

As members of Congress convene to discuss the federal budget, they would be wise to prioritize spending bills on core priorities such as the military while streamlining less-necessary parts of the federal behemoth.

Trimming or eliminating the multitude of government-to-government transfer programs would provide much-needed savings, make it easier to reach agreement on funding levels, and reduce the amount of nonsense in places like San Francisco that is subsidized by taxpayers from across the country.


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