In Washington, no word is more overused and abused than “reform.” But a Washington Post story today shows the abuse taken to new heights:
Farm bloc lawmakers yesterday offered the U.S. fruit and vegetable industry $1.8 billion in new federal grants over the next five years as part of a farm bill that would leave in place far larger subsidies for grain, cotton and dairy producers.
The concessions were part of a balancing act by House Democrats to craft a bill that will satisfy politically powerful farm interests while also bearing a Democratic imprint of reform. The House Agriculture Committee was set to vote on the legislation late last night…
I suppose when a federal agency has 105,000 employees, it has a lot of folks just sitting around wondering what they can regulate next. For the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it’s six-toed cats in Key West.
In researching my new bulletin, Milk Madness, the weirdest document I came across was this 2003 note from then New York Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer.
Spitzer was going after retailers of milk for “price gouging,” or charging prices that were “excessive.”
Talk about regulatory chutzpah. The federal government runs a milk cartel system, called “marketing orders,” which has the direct goal of raising prices. A federal price support program and import barriers are designed to raise milk prices. It has been federal policy for 70 years to screw milk consumers for the benefit of milk producers.
And the government of New York is going after retailers for overcharging?
As annual spending bills wind their way through Congress this year, there are ongoing battles over earmarked funding for members’ pet projects.
To get a sense of what the battle is about, check out this newly released list of earmarks in the House Interior appropriations bill.
People scour such lists looking for embarrassing bridges to nowhere in Alaska and indoor rainforests in Iowa.
As Congress considers a new farm bill in coming weeks, Cato has launched a web resource, Downsizing the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which offers a menu of cuts to shrink the department’s $89 billion budget by 90 percent.
A nice complement to the Cato pages is an updated farm subsidy database from the Environmental Working Group.
The New York Times has compiled a mammoth list of federal subsidies (or “earmarks”) to thousands of religious organizations.
Public discussions of such giveaways usually revolve around the First Amendment and also the possible damage that subsidies do to the strength, diversity, and integrity of religious institutions themselves.
I was catching up on my reading in the International Breastfeeding Journal, and came across a great article by George Kent, a professor at the University of Hawaii.
As a scholarly article, it had no photos. Instead, what made it interesting were the contradictions it revealed in the federal women, infants, children (WIC) subsidy program. This is a $5 billion per year program that subsidizes families with babies, mainly by providing free infant formula.
Kent found that:
The Washington Post has been running a series on its website (Citizen K Street) on the life of Gerald Cassidy, the preeminent entrepreneur of federal budget earmarking since the 1970s. Here are a few thoughts:
- Cassidy is a liberal Democrat, but a much more important aspect of his character seems to be his insatiable quest for money, money, money.
The Washington Post reported the other day that there are more delays and cost overruns at the new Capitol Hill Visitor Center.
How should government officials decide on whether to fund big projects such as fighter aircraft, highways, bridges, and other types of infrastructure?
First, they should check the Constitution to see whether they are legally allowed to spend on the object in consideration.
Second, they should assume that the item will cost at least twice as much as initial estimates indicate. There should be a 2-to-1 hurdle when the price tag of a project is being considered.
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