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:
The minute you fund a program you’ve just created a constituency group. Before long, they will be organized and have a staff here in Washington, which is paid from dues from the members who get their money from the federal government. And those go up and lobby to keep the money going. It’s a classic microcosm of what’s wrong with government.
NADO thanks those regional development organizations that contacted their Senators to urge them to sign the letter. Regional development organizations are encouraged to formally thank those Senators that showed their support for EDA.
In an interview with Rep. Allan Mollohan (D-WV), the congressman unconsciously revealed how extremely one-sided the environment was. I mentioned to him that as part of my research I would be coming to his appropriations subcommittee to testify against funding for the National Science Foundation. “You don’t want to fund the National Science Foundation?” he asked in disbelief. “I’ve never heard anybody say they didn’t think NSF ought to be funded.”
There are many arguments against taxpayer funding of scientific research, including the points that it retards science, corrupts scientists, and hinders economic development, not to mention all the more obvious ones about opportunity cost, tax burdens, tax system overhead costs, waste, and perverse income redistribution. That Representative Mollohan had never heard any of these many arguments, despite his presumed expertise as a member of the NSF appropriations subcommittee, showed how complete the insulation of members of Congress had become.
The comprehensive tabulation showed that in those 14 hearings, 1,014 witnesses appeared to argue in favor of programs and only 7 spoke against them, an imbalance of 145 to 1.