It's hard to avoid the feeling that celebrating Columbia County's award of $13.5 million in federal "stimulus" funding is a bit like dancing on our country's grave.
With a record budget deficit growing worse by the nanosecond and some economists gloomily predicting the shaky economic recovery could collapse and send the nation into another depression, capturing a handful of dollars borrowed from our grandchildren's future is a mighty uncomfortable reason for a party.
But that's just the way the world works. Washington is ladling borrowed money whether we put out our tin cups or not. It's going to be spent somewhere, so cynical pragmatism says we might as well grab what we can. Not going after the money wouldn't keep it from adding to the deficit - it would just be spent somewhere else.
That's been a major "gotcha" theme in recent weeks from Georgia's Democratic Party. Even though the state's congressional Republicans rightly fought against the "stimulus" spending, individual GOP lawmakers have been all too happy to come back home since then and crow about getting their districts a share of the pork.
Even the local liaison for fiscally stingy U.S. Rep. Paul Broun attended Tuesday's celebration of Columbia County's broadband grant announcement, as did dozens of local officials who would likewise consider themselves conservatives.
Holding our noses and setting aside all such principles - perhaps rendering those principles meaningless - is the only way to celebrate this week's announcement.
There is no doubt the award will be a tremendous boost for Columbia County. The $13.5 million grant will be added to $4.5 million in local funding and in-kind participation to create a 220 mile fiber-optic data network throughout the county, including badly needed upgrades for all schools.
That network will exponentially increase Internet speed and access, especially in "underserved" areas in the western, rural end of the community.
County officials who put the program together say they'll partner with the Medical College of Georgia to link to a massive data center at the core of the project. Once completed, it will provide 60 WiFi "hot spots" around the county with free Internet access in public areas, while putting in place infrastructure that will allow private service providers to reach rural areas currently lacking broadband access.
"It's like bringing electricity to the masses at the turn of the (20th) century," Commissioner Trey Allen said at Tuesday's announcement.
Columbia County's grant was one of 23 such awards announced Tuesday by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration from the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program, designed to speed up the electronic networking of the country.
Altogether, that federal program has $4.7 billion to spend. We might as well celebrate getting a share of it, and party like it's 1929.
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