Yes, Congressman, I Do Have a Problem With That

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Ho-hum. Members of Congress are busying themselves with their usual dishonest tricks, looting the taxpayers and proudly taking credit for their crimes.

According to USA Today (“Farm Aid Plumps Up Iraq Funding,” March 22), House Democrats have loaded the emergency-spending bill for the Iraq war―a crime in its own right―with $3.7 billion in benefits for farm interests that support Democrats. In the minds of these devoted public servants, “supporting the troops” furnishes an apt occasion for enriching peanut, spinach, and milk producers, among others.

Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), who proudly calls himself “the peanut congressman,” makes no apologies for allocating $74 million of the taxpayer’s money to the glorious cause of paying storage fees for peanut growers. This largess constitutes a suitable payoff, it seems, for the reported $35,750 that peanut interests contributed to Bishop’s last campaign.

Likewise, Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) does not hang his head when called to account for the $25 million in taxpayer dollars he helped direct to spinach growers “to offset losses from last fall’s E. coli contamination.” After all, how were those spinach farmers to know that crops sometimes become contaminated with germs―you don’t think that sort of thing has ever happened before, do you? Surely the reported $30,600 that Rep. Farr received from spinach interests in his last campaign had nothing to do with his actions in committee. The suggestion that he is a special-interest prostitute is impolite, however true it might be.

House appropriations committee chairman David Obey (D-Wisc.) understands instinctively that the United States can’t win the war in Iraq without a solid phalanx of milk producers to back up the troops. This tactical concern probably explains the reported $252 million for additional milk subsidies that somehow found its way into the bill Obey’s committee brought forth. Any intimation that the congressman is a mere highwayman for the milk interests would be rude, except that Obey himself affirms its truth without shame. “I represent dairy farmers,” he declares. “You got a problem with that?”

“Every time there is a disaster on the farming front, the federal government provides assistance,” Obey declares. “This is no different than what’s been done for the last 50 years.” Think about that statement. For fifty years running―actually, it’s closer to ninety, in one way or another―members of Congress have been extorting money from citizens on pain of fines and imprisonment in order to enrich farmers who’ve never learned that farming is risky. Mythology apart, when it comes to actually bearing the risk, the farmer’s slogan has long been “better you than me, pal,” and the agribusiness lackeys in Congress make sure that not a blade of wheat wilts without eliciting generous taxpayer compensation.

So, for a mere $113,000 reportedly directed to Rep. Obey by the milk interests since 1989, the agro-bandits get back this year alone a handsome return of $252 million, not to mention the other stupendous amounts of booty they’ve raked in from time immemorial. You and I can only dream of investments that return such gorgeous profits. Scientific, technological, and economic innovation be damned, I say. If we really want to get rich with no risk at all, we must invest in a congressman or two.

Punctilious observers may protest that the Constitution gives Congress no power to take my money and give it to farmer Jones. Unfortunately, the wise men of the Supreme Court have sensed emanations and penumbras of pesticide, herbicide, and livestock dung hovering above the sacred document. In decisions such as Wickard v. Filburn (317 U.S. 111 [1942]), the mandarins in black robes have placed their stamp of approval on transparent piracy, justifying it with some of the most palpably sophistical pseudo-rationalizations ever written down. This disgraceful judicial “reasoning” really must be seen to be believed. Don’t take my word for it; look it up.

The whole government gang―legislative, executive, and judicial―is clearly in on the crime, so the criminals themselves have nothing to fear from the powers that be. Indeed, the criminals and the powers are one and the same.

Which makes you and me what? Accessories to a crime, for electing these criminals? Chumps, for supinely putting up with what they do? Too busy with work, daily life, and family problems to notice that a large amount of our earnings is being deducted for such disgusting “public” purposes as taking from Peter and giving to Paul―a Paul who has no more right to the money than a dark-alley mugger?

To me, the matter seems all too plain: I’ve been robbed, you’ve been robbed, and the robbers remain cheerfully on the loose.

Robert Higgs [send him mail] is senior fellow in political economy at the Independent Institute and editor of The Independent Review. His most recent book is Depression, War, and Cold War: Studies in Political Economy. He is also the author of Resurgence of the Warfare State: The Crisis Since 9/11 and Against Leviathan.

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