Taxpayers Spend Billions Of Dollars Annually On A Woke Welfare Racket
This essay was originally published by The Federalist on May 23, 2023. Jeremy Carl is a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute. Follow him on Twitter at @jeremycarl4. Douglas Walker is a research associate at the Claremont Institute’s Center for the American Way of Life.
A new database tracks how taxpayers are funding a vast network of leftist activists dedicated to overturning American values.
Taxpayers are unwittingly funding the leftist assault on American values.
Each year, the U.S. federal government awards hundreds of billions of dollars in grants and contracts to nonprofit organizations, corporations, museums, libraries, colleges, and other entities. While much of this funding is relatively noncontroversial, some of it is funneled to organizations that engage in or advocate leftist political activism.
Conservatives have long railed against “wasteful spending” and “pork” — to little effect. But with a few exceptions such as Planned Parenthood, the ecosystem of government funding for leftist groups has gone largely unnoticed. Most Americans (though perhaps not most conservative activists) would be surprised to find out that the federal government is paying people to teach children radical gender ideology, bring illegal immigrants into the country, promote the ideology of so-called “diversity, equity, and inclusion” in private organizations, and much more.
That ignorance ends now.
The Claremont Institute’s Center for the American Way of Life has created the Federal Progressive Subsidy Database to track federal “subsidies” for leftist political activism. Our database, which covers all fiscal years since 2016 and will be updated each year, chronicles how government funds a variety of leftist activities: affirmative action programs, LGBT advocacy groups, “culturally responsive” education, “social-emotional learning,” critical race theory (CRT), efforts to remake libraries and other facilities to be “antiracist,” sex-positive sex education, DEI initiatives (including expensive “diversity consultants”), and more.
It goes without saying that we found virtually no evidence of payments to right-wing groups.
We provide comprehensive information for each payment, such as the recipient organization’s name and location, the fiscal year, the federal agency responsible for the payment, and a description of its purpose. We would also welcome additions to the database, which can be emailed to us at [email protected].
Our new tool gives Congress the necessary information to end subsidies to leftist activism. Every Republican, whether a “deficit hawk” or anti-wokeness warrior, should be eager to do so.
$6 Billion Since 2016
Just how bad is the problem? At the time of this writing, our database contained 2,618 entries chronicling more than $6 billion in federal subsidies to leftists since 2016 — or just over $860 million each year. While this amount may seem small compared to the total federal budget, it is enough to dramatically affect the nonprofit world. It is also likely just a small fraction of the real money that goes to leftist groups, much of which is laundered through respectable, seemingly nonpartisan foundations or programs, but which is often difficult to trace to its government source. While these numbers were reduced under President Donald Trump, since Joe Biden took office this number has increased to more than $1.65 billion per year.
Accessing public money allows nonprofits to bypass the difficult process of soliciting donations to support provocative activities with modest public benefits. Equivalent private funding for many of these activities would be impossible to obtain, and many nonprofits would shrink dramatically without federal funds. Public funding also conveys the impression that the government endorses the funded organization or activity — many groups, in fact, proudly tout their cooperation with federal agencies.
We have included two types of payments in our database: payments to any organization in support of left-wing activism, and payments for any purpose made to left-wing activist organizations. Sometimes a “mainstream” organization conducts ideologically extreme activities, and sometimes extreme organizations receive funds for pedestrian purposes. But support for an organization’s “nonpartisan” activities indirectly promotes its ideological work. Money, after all, is fungible — one dollar can be substituted for any other dollar.
Funding received for a particular purpose allows groups to divert, into other channels, funding that would have gone toward that purpose. For instance, federal funds given for one project may be used to compensate personnel and/or infrastructure that allow the organization to pursue other, more ideological, projects. In such a case, the money that — without the federal grant — would have gone toward paying for that employee or building is freed for use elsewhere. By helping an organization gain publicity, build capacity, train personnel, and fund overhead costs, federal funding for “good” projects sustains its entire operation.
Immigration Is the Largest Category
While we encourage readers to explore the database for themselves, below are some brief illustrations of the inner workings of the woke welfare racket. Funding to immigration-related organizations represents by far the biggest category in our database. The never-ending Biden border crisis has facilitated an environment in which leftist nonprofits involve themselves in every aspect of the immigration process.
Remarkably, some nonprofits subsidize migrant caravans before they even reach the border. The taxpayer-funded International Organization for Migration was found to be building shelters and handing out United Nations-issued debit cards for migrants in Mexico.
Once they reach the U.S., various nonprofits take actions that enable illegal immigration and/or hamper the enforcement of immigration laws. Illegal immigrants are fed, lodged, and clothed by pro-amnesty, anti-enforcement organizations such as Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services. Legal groups that oppose deportation in court and assist (mostly) fraudulent asylum applicants receive money for “citizenship instruction” and/or “naturalization services.” Nonprofits that shelter unaccompanied minors or claim to fight human trafficking — for example, the Vera Institute for Justice and the Polaris Project — simultaneously advocate for defunding the police and opening the borders.
Federal money should not prop up activist organizations, most of which subsist heavily on federal aid, intent on loosening or subverting our immigration laws. Such funding slows deportation, eases the migration process, and communicates to the world that illegal immigrants will receive help and will not be sent home.
Funding Sex Ed
Sex education is another persistent racket. Groups engaged in so-called “pregnancy prevention” advocate for abortion, promote libertine sexual ethics, and espouse LGBT ideology. To cite just one example, Thrive OKC, a “sexual health collective for youth” in Oklahoma City that received $4.8 million from 2019-2022 for “pregnancy prevention,” promotes contraception for teenagers alongside leftist political activism. It officially advocates against bills that restrict the teaching of CRT to schoolchildren, supports bills requiring “health education” (i.e. sex education) for all Oklahoma students, and complains that a “parents bill of rights” complicates its work by making it harder to navigate sensitive topics with underage teens, such as testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
Our database is full of examples like this. In some areas, particularly immigration, the need for funding is self-imposed and can be avoided if the federal government performs its basic constitutional functions (such as securing the borders). Instead of subsidizing people to break our laws, we should spend that money enforcing them. For all remaining tasks, Congress should divert resources to organizations that support the American way of life. If none exist, conservatives should consider building alternative organizations to solicit federal grants.
These reforms all involve Congress asserting oversight and control over federal agencies that have long enjoyed enormous leeway in allocating government funding. For too long, American taxpayers have underwritten a vast network of activists dedicated to overturning American values and destroying our way of life. It is our hope that by shining a light on how our government subsidizes our political enemies, the right can engage in practical steps to turn off the funding spigots and win back our culture.