And So I Go: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

This Week in Government Failure: big government at work! | Cato @ Liberty

Posted on: June 26, 2010

This Week in Government Failure | Cato @ Liberty.

This Week in Government Failure

Posted by Tad DeHaven

Over at Downsizing Government, we focused on the following issues this week:  (I highly recommend this site. Cato’s Downsizing Government should be on everyone watch list. BB)

  • Why a taxpayer gift to a wealthy Indian tribe in Connecticut isn’t any more egregious than the billions of dollars of other subsidies handed out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

USDA(United States Department of Agriculture)  Local Subsidies

On May 27th the USDA awarded $168 million in stimulus money to 145 local infrastructure projects across the country. A third of the money is going to the Mohegan Indian tribe in Connecticut for a new community center. The $54 million loan has attracted national scrutiny because the tribe operates one of the biggest casinos in the country, which grossed $1.3 billion in 2009.

A lot of the focus has been on the role of the Connecticut congressional delegation, which petitioned the USDA to award the tribe the money. In particular, a former aide to Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) is now the tribe’s chief of staff for external and governmental affairs.
But is the taxpayer gift to the wealthy Indian tribe any more egregious than the billions of dollars of other subsidies handed out by the USDA? Certainly not.
Members of Congress pressure the USDA and other federal agencies to fund their pet projects all the time. Former congressional staffers lobbying for special interest handouts is common. It’s certainly repulsive from the taxpayer standpoint, but it’s to be expected when the federal government is allowed to spend money on local interests.
The following are some of the other local projects recently awarded to local communities by the USDA:
  • $150,000 for Monterey County, CA to buy a bookmobile and four computers.
  • $75,000 for Ashburn, GA to purchase a new backhoe.
  • $150,000 to the Harford County Board of Education in Maryland to purchase and install new refrigeration and freezing units.
  • $19,600 to Handi-Shop, Inc. in Missouri to replace a cardboard baler.
  • $107,000 to the Village of Brocton, NY to purchase a new ambulance.
These projects may or may not be worthy. But the only way to find out is to allow the people who will benefit to decide if they’re willing to pay for the projects. (never truer words said!  If the item or items are needed then the local state or city will find a way to pay for it.  BB)
It’s important to remember that when it comes to state and local subsidies, the use of the funds is much less important than the existence of the funds. The federal government’s spending appetite is unlikely to be brought under control until the responsibility for local interests is returned to local governments. The USDA subsidy to the Mohegan tribe is certainly egregious, but the outrage should be directed at the whole range of federal programs that fund such things.
See this essay for more on the need to reinstitute fiscal federalism. See this essay for more on the problems with the USDA’s rural subsidies.  (Both if these articles really are must sees.   But sit down in your easy chair after making sure you have taken your blood pressure meds. BB)
  • Protectionism at the Department of Commerce is helping 200 workers at an ironing board manufacturing plant in Indiana. However, it’s hurting millions of U.S. consumers by forcing them to pay higher prices for ironing boards.
  • (This one I must say I am having a little trouble with.  It is true that the United States has lost its manufacturing industries to  China, India and countries all over the world who do not have labor unions, minimum wages laws, child protection laws,  or anything else to keep them from producing goods cheaper than can be produced in the United States.   So the consumer should get the benefit of the less costly goods.  In fact we do.  Look at the labels of things around your home and I will bet you find not mere than a couple “Made in the United States”.  But, the United States also needs the lower skilled manufacturing jobs desperately for a large portion of the population who are now on welfare because they lack the skills and education to get a job.  Kind of a rock and a hard place here.  I personally am guilty of going for the price as my second criteria with quality first.  When I found foreign cars not only better quality and better price I bought foreign.  The American cars cut on quality in order to pay the high union wages and benefits and lost out to the foreign car makers.  BB)
  • Pigs still can’t fly: More concerns for the Federal Aviation Administration’s next-generation air traffic control system.
  • This is one giant SNAFU that the Department of Transportation Inspector General has been yelling about for several years but no one listens and Congress keeps giving the FAA  and air port authorities more money.  Inspector Generals are appointed as independent people who watch what is going on with a project or department that should not be going on and reports on it so something can be done to stop it. As I said, they are appointed by Congress then Congress refuses to listen to them.  BB)
  • The evidence is more than anecdotal: Businesses are reluctant to invest or hire because they’re concerned that the president’s big government agenda will mean higher taxes and more onerous regulations.
  • (This is certainly evident to anyone outside of Washington DC.  but then even in Washington and surrounding cities businesses are going out of business big time.  So what is with Obama and our Congress?  BB)

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