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Lincoln's Last Earmark

09/10/2010

Democracy and Power 103:  Government money

In general, the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other. – Voltaire (1764)

The money taxed and spent by the politicians comes from the labor and ingenuity of millions of working persons.  Politicians spend other peoples’ money.

 The politician transfers money from productive people, to mostly favored special interest groups.

 Lincoln's Last Earmark The spending problem, in profile.

Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas has been attempting to change an agriculture insurance law to allow corporate agribusinesses to retroactively extract hundreds of thousands of dollars from the US Treasury.  The total cost is $1.5 billion.

Senator Lincoln is the most endangered Democratic Senator in the upcoming November elections.  Ardently, she has attempted to attach her “earmark” to a series of bills.  The Wall Street Journal reports:

Mrs. Lincoln's claim is preposterous enough that she can't persuade even her fellow Democrats to pony up the cash. First she suggested tapping TARP for the money. When that didn't fly, she tried unsuccessfully to add an earmark to a war funding bill, and then to the small business bill that Congress will take up after Labor Day. Her colleagues keep saying "no."

Ah, but the President must help a collaborator in need.  The WSJ continues:

Enter the White House. In an August 6 letter, deputy budget director Robert L. Nabors II pledged that "the Administration is committed to providing [the disaster] assistance consistent with your legislative proposal by the end of the month." The White House says it can do so under a Depression-era law allowing tariff funds to be used for farm emergency payments.

 Will the amounts received by the agribusinesses be published?  Apparently, not.

Coincidentally—or not—the USDA has chosen this moment to stop publishing the names of farm subsidy recipients and how much they receive. As EWG (Environmental Working Group) puts it: "This policy effectively shields from disclosure subsidy benefits going to multiple, and often absentee, owners of large, agribusiness farming operations." The USDA says shutting down the data base will save money. Welcome to the new era of transparency in government.

According to the WSJ the insurance program has merit, and this raid will destroy the program.

If Mrs. Lincoln gets her $1.5 billion, the White House will have eviscerated the one laudable farm subsidy reform in years. Congress will revert to raiding the Treasury every year to enrich its wealthiest constituents. All of this in a last ditch, and probably futile, effort to help Mrs. Lincoln retain her Senate seat.

Tragically, this is politics as usual in DC. 

Democracy and Power 103:  The politician transfers money from productive people, to mostly favored special interest groups.

Or as Walter Williams states:

Conservatives and liberals are kindred spirits as far as government spending is concerned. First, let's make sure we understand what government spending is. Since government has no resources of its own, and since there's no Tooth Fairy handing Congress the funds for the programs it enacts, we are forced to recognize that government spending is no less than the confiscation of one person's property to give it to another to whom it does not belong – in effect, legalized theft.