Boy, I wish I weren’t so stupid

Published 9:24 am Tuesday, March 19, 2024

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By Lloyd Albritton


Teachers often encourage students to ask questions if they do not understand something, emphasizing that there is no such thing as a stupid question.  I disagree.  There is too such a thing as a stupid question!  A stupid question is a question that the teacher doesn’t know the answer to, or knows the answer, but does not want to give it because the answer might contradict the core premise of the teacher’s lesson objective.  Teachers often prefer pedantic explanations which sound complicated and advanced, but are in reality so convoluted and nonsensical that only a stupid person dare pose a question because an intelligent person would know that the only way the teacher can save face after being presented with a stupid question is to make the stupid person asking the stupid question look even more stupid than he is so that the teacher can avoid looking stupid himself.  Hence, I have just presented one of the stupidest statements I have ever heard.

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Politicians are also good at offering beautifully crafted stupid explanations for the things they do and then making those who doubt them look stupid.  In fact, about the only question any thinking person might safely ask one in a position of power, authority or prestige which will not result in that person looking stupid is, “Gosh sir, how did you get so smart?”  In other words, if you pretend that the boss is smart, he will pretend that you are smart too, and everybody can remain stupid and happy.  If, however, you make the lofty one look stupid by asking him a stupid question (see definition above), you leave him no choice but to use all his power and authority to put a hex on you.

I have never been very smart, and it seems the more I learn the stupider I get.  Consequently, I have always been prone to ask stupid questions.  My “permanent record” fully documents that I am a stupid person, so there is no point in me to trying to hide it.  I have indeed done a lot of stupid things in my life and I have definitely asked a lot of stupid questions.  With that disclaimer in mind, I have a stupid question I would like to pose for the benefit of other stupid people like me who have trouble understanding things.

Why is the writing and award of a “grant” considered a notable political accomplishment?  Isn’t grant-writing pretty much like professional begging?  I’m just asking!  All I know about grants is what I learned in Webster’s, i.e., “giving to a claimant or petitioner something that could be withheld.”  More specifically, a grant-in-aid, as defined by Webster’s, is “a subsidy of public funds paid by a central to a local government in aid of a public undertaking.”  The City of Atmore, for example, was awarded a federal grant in the amount of $1.225 million recently to fix some of the watershed problems in the city.

I’m confident that this is a desired and legitimate use of grant monies and that Atmore’s watershed problems needed to be fixed.  What I’m not so sure about are the myriad of federal grants each year to study such things as the Delhi Sand Fly, the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, or the Hunch-Backed Snail, which gives rise to other stupid musings about a common government practice called “pork barreling,” defined by Webster’s as “government projects or appropriations yielding rich patronage benefits.”

Patronage?  Aha!  Let me see if I understand.  The federal government collects taxes from all the citizens of local governments, then the local governments beg for some of the money back to take care of problems which the federal government approves of.  Naturally, local governments are assisted in this convoluted endeavor by elected federal officials who know where the money is stashed and who have influence in determining where it will be allocated.  Naturally, local government officials and local citizenry are thankful for the benevolence of our national and state representative who dole out the dough and owe them patronage for their efforts in our behalf.  In this way, federal politicians are reelected to office time and time again as they continue to propagate a system which seems to me like about the stupidest system I ever heard of.

When elected federal government officials propose federal tax cuts, local governments immediately begin crying that their federal grant funds are being cut and that they do not have enough money to operate.  When local government proposes to raise local taxes to make up for the shortfall, local citizens immediately begin crying that they can’t stand the burden of more taxes and decry the federal tax cuts which caused all this mess.  Federal politicians, whose power lies in the control and doling out of federal funds, then once again take up the banner of the good people they serve and protest the injustice of federal tax cuts, proposing instead a federal tax increase so they will have more money to hand out so they can buy more votes and get reelected.  The people cheer and the politicians give themselves another pay raise for a job well done.

Oh well, I suppose it takes a certain amount of money to run our government, both nationally and locally, and I suspect that we citizens will never really get a tax cut because government always gives with one hand and takes with the other.  Still, all things being equal, why would we trust our national government to spend our tax money more wisely than our local governments, or we ourselves for that matter?  Why is it best give our money to Washington and then beg them to give us back some of it?

Why indeed?  Because politicians know that when we send our money to Washington, we lose track of it.  How much of every federal tax dollar we pay is used for pork-barreling and redistribution of wealth instead of legitimate problems like municipal watershed, I have no idea, but I have a hunch it’s a lot!  If we gave less money to national government, and more money to local government, wouldn’t we be able keep a closer eye on the money and better control over what they are doing with it?  That’s the way it seems to me anyway.  But heck, what do I know? I was just musing and thought I would ask another stupid question.

                                                   Lloyd Albritton is an independent columnist for the Atmore Advance.  For comments or questions about Lloyd’s column, he can be contacted at (850)281-3233 or by e-mail at