A recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal describes what happens in an industry that suffers from a plethora of subsidies and a dearth of free markets. Water experts Peter Culp and Robert Glennon write:
Occasional episodes of government mismanagement explode into big scandals, such as the General Services Administration’s party in Las Vegas that wasted more than $800,000.
An article in the Wall Street Journal offers another example of the problem with the federal government tackling issues that should be left to the states to resolve. Congress passed a law in 1977 requiring coal companies to pay a fee that was to be used to help the states clean up abandoned mines. As is often the case, the distribution of funds to the states has been distorted by politics:
One of the issues discussed in my new essay on the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is the lobbying by groups of American Indians seeking official tribal status. The BIA has the power to confer tribal status, and it does so in a non-transparent manner. With official status comes tribal access to a wide range of federal subsidy programs plus the ability to earn monopoly profits with a casino. The gaining of official status for tribes was one of Jack Abramoff’s specialty services.
Cato has published a new section on www.downsizinggovernment.org that examines the Department of the Interior.
President Obama is planning to deliver a big speech on jobs and the economy. His wish list for Congress will likely include more government infrastructure spending. So that citizens know what the president is talking about, they should review the success of the government’s past infrastructure projects.
Is Rachel Maddow sure she wants the government to “think big,” as she says here standing in front of the Hoover Dam?
Regulatory "capture” occurs when a government entity tasked with protecting the public’s interest instead protects the industry is it supposed to regulate. The latest example is the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service. The MMS was created in 1982 to regulate the oil and gas industry and collect royalties on the resources extracted from federally leased land and waters.
A Cato essay on special-interest spending explains how many federal programs deliver subsidies to particular groups of individuals and businesses while harming taxpayers and damaging the overall economy. A major reason why spending has spun out of control in Washington is that thousands of special interest groups have secured a slice of the spending pie, and they fight tooth and nail to make sure policymakers keep baking.