A couple weeks ago Orson Swindle, an assistant secretary of commerce for economic development in the Reagan Administration, was kind enough to send me news articles from his days battling policymakers over porky Economic Development Administration projects. In a 1989 Insight article, Orson gave a nice summation of one of the problems with special interest spending:
According to the latest Small Business Economic Trends survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, 31 percent of respondents said the single most important problem facing small businesses is “poor sales.” “Taxes” and “Government Regulations and Red Tape” came in second and third place at 22 percent and 13 percent respectively. Combining the two, the biggest problem facing small businesses according to respondents is government.
My house has been on the market for a month and it has drawn a lot more looks than I expected. I’ve been quizzing realtors as they come through, and each one tells me the same story: the government is single-handedly propping up the demand for housing. In addition to the homebuyer tax credit and government-induced low mortgage interest rates, most sales are being done with Federal Housing Administration backing.
Food stamp usage is at record levels according to the New York Times, with one in eight Americans now receiving benefits. There are several reasons for the upswing, including expanded eligibility in the 2000s and the severe economic downturn. The following chart shows the dramatic rise in spending for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as the Food Stamp program until 2008 when Congress changed its name to sound more palatable.
The Washington Times recently used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain letters sent to the USDA by numerous Republican lawmakers seeking stimulus money for their constituents. All of these Republicans had publicly criticized the stimulus and voted against it.