"I defy you to give the logic of it."

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The Washington Post investigates the USDA's multibillion dollar "rural development program," which has been cutting checks for such remote backwaters as Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket: 

Among the recipients were electric companies awarded almost $1 billion in low-interest loans to serve the booming suburbs of Atlanta and Tampa. Beach towns from Cape Cod to New Jersey to Florida collected federal money for water and sewer systems, town halls, and boardwalks. An Internet provider in Houston got $23 million in loans to wire affluent subdivisions, including one that boasts million-dollar houses and an equestrian center.

On Martha's Vineyard, the USDA guaranteed a $4.5 million loan for the popular Black Dog Tavern. The loan, which has since been repaid, was to refinance the tavern's mortgage and expand Black Dog's retail clothing stores. On Nantucket, where the population swells to the size of a small city in summer months, the Agriculture Department provides rental subsidies for families priced out of the local market.

"Nobody understands it. I don't understand it," said J. Gregory Greco, a business specialist who works out of the USDA's Rural Development office in Harrisburg, Pa. "You may find one area of town is eligible and another isn't. It can be by street: One side is eligible and another is not. I defy you to give the logic of it."

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  1. Beyond the obvious inefficiences present in any large program, can anyone explain why the government needs to prop-up rural areas? Conversely, why does the government spend so much time propping up urban areas?

    Embrace the inevitable suburban future!

  2. I live in an unincorporated section of King County, Washington which has been designated “rural” by the state government. What this means is that local farmers recieve all sorts of incentives to continue farming land that is worth upwards of $600,000 an acre to developers…

  3. Rural areas produce our organic veggies.
    Urban areas produce our lively culture.
    Everything else is just sprawl.

  4. Speaking of subsidizing rural areas, why haven’t they run Amtrak out to Nantucket yet?

  5. Logic? We don’t need no stinkin logic!

  6. I pity da fool who give the logic of it!

  7. I’ve decided this sort of thing is like farm subsidies: everyone who knows about it hates it, except the recipients of the checks. The problem is that the ones who get the checks have the motive and means to pay lobbyists, while to the rest of us this is just one more, to use the crude Spanish term, chingale. Thus, rather like the 20,000 residents of Miami who control two Congressional seats and can therefore dictate the US Cuba policy, the check recipients control this stuff. Until the number of people who hate it out-organize the 200 people who love it, the program will never ever change.

  8. I defy anyone to give any logic to politics.

  9. I defy anyone to give any logic to politics.

    Politics isn’t about logic – it’s about taking hundreds of millions of people with different viewpoints and interests and figuring out how to get it all to work.

    To complain about “politics” is to complain about human nature. You’re free to do so but what is it going to accomplish?

  10. jimmydageek,

    Greco, Greco. That name seems familiar somehow.

  11. Pro Lib,

    Maybe this will help refresh your memory?

    Hooked,

    “Politics isn’t about logic – it’s about taking hundreds of millions of people with different viewpoints and interests [money from lobbyists] and figuring out how to get it all to work [without much backlash from constituents].

  12. Easy to understand. Follow the money. 3 trillion bucks is still a lot, even with inflation.

  13. I’ve heard many stories about Greco. I believe them all. No wonder Tampa, er people in Tampa, are getting dollars for rural development. Why, I saw a cow on I-75 once, so they must be right.

  14. Even I could buy a few friends with 3 T.

  15. 3 trillion bucks is still a lot, even with inflation.

    Bah. Three trillion isn’t that much. I couldn’t finish my space elevator/Colossus of Libertate statue with that. Phooey.

  16. jimmy, consider that without politics, the handful of people with money would have all the power, instead of just a lot of it.

    Which illustrates a problem with libertarianism as a working philosophy – it gives people the right to amass as much power as they can, and then hopes that they don’t use it.

  17. I know this is OT, but I just read it this morning in the Phila Inquirer, one of many papers demanding the minimum wage raise. Today the story just very matter-of-factly mentions:

    “One consequence of January’s increase in the minimum wage – from $6.25 to $7.15 an hour – is the threat it poses to summer jobs for youth. As salaries rise, the number of jobs comes down because program budgets are limited.This summer, without an extra $1.3 million, an estimated 1,100 jobs will have to be cut, according to PYN officials.

    Acting to save at least half of those jobs, state Rep. Dwight Evans yesterday pledged $820,000 in state funding derived from the Blueprint for a Safer Philadelphia program under the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.”

  18. I’ll take the power of the rich (“Here, do this and I’ll pay you money”) over the power of politics (“Do this or I’ll garnish your wages, close your business, and throw you in prison”) any day of the week.

    And yeah, the rich will try to amass political power as well, and have proven themselves quite good at it for as long as politics has been around. All the more reason to shrink the sphere of politics as much as possible.

  19. “You may find one area of town is eligible and another isn’t. It can be by street: One side is eligible and another is not. I defy you to give the logic of it.”

    So the feds are doing real “Red Lining” as opposed to what they were accusing bankers of doing in the past and then summerily fining them or forcing the bankers and S&Ls to make bad loans in bad neighborhoods.

    I see the ‘logic’ and it is Left.

  20. I’ll take the power of the rich (“Here, do this and I’ll pay you money”) over the power of politics (“Do this or I’ll garnish your wages, close your business, and throw you in prison”) any day of the week.

    But it’s the power of politics that prevents the rich from throwing you in prison at their whim.

    And yeah, the rich will try to amass political power as well, and have proven themselves quite good at it for as long as politics has been around. All the more reason to shrink the sphere of politics as much as possible.

    But the only way to shrink the sphere of politics is to fully submit to those with power.

    What I’m getting at is that politics is a good thing, not a bad thing.

  21. Hooked,

    What I’m getting at is that politics also gives more power to the already rich. Take the MPAA/RIAA for example: Politicians pass laws (pushed by lobbyists) that make it illegal to share data – all in the name of preserving the industry’s profits. That’s just one example – there’s many more.

    I’m not saying that politics are altogether bad, just severly flawed in the current form.

  22. This may be the stupidest thing I’ve read on these boards:

    Which illustrates a problem with libertarianism as a working philosophy – it gives people the right to amass as much power as they can, and then hopes that they don’t use it.

    No, libertarianism is all about denying anyone the ability to amass very much power at all. Plenty of wealth, but not much power.

  23. Speaking of subsidizing rural areas, why haven’t they run Amtrak out to Nantucket yet?

    Same reason they won’t run the Metro out to Georgetown. It would bring in the bad types. You know, poors and coloreds.

    /asshole

    But it’s the power of politics that prevents the rich from throwing you in prison at their whim.

    If you give the government the power to redistribute wealth, it’s only a matter of time before those with wealth use their wealth to rig the system in their favor. Witness: Agribusiness subsidies.

  24. Karen has it. This is a common situation in public policy–small, well-organized groups can coordinate to demand a tiny amount from everyone else, which adds up to a lot for them. Several such groups can agree to support one another, solidifying their gains.

  25. Strangely, Henry Ford , rich, found that by paying his employees higher wages, they were able to buy his product, making him wealthier and more influential. All of us have something to sell, politicians have a lot more though. Henry Ford had only one thing to sell that I might be interested in. Politicians have a lot of stuff I’d like.

  26. Huh. If the government in the U.S. were replaced by one corporation, which had unrestricted power over us, I don’t think libertarians would be the ones not fighting for their liberty. We like the “free” in free market, you see, as well as the whole principle of liberty.

    Strange that nonlibertarians seem to think that we’d be happy in a world like that. Here’s an insight: we’re not so much pro-business as we are anti-government. And most of us aren’t anarchists, so we don’t advocate the complete abolition of government. Modern libertarian thinking is fairly similar to our founding principles, if that helps. The Founders certainly didn’t try to eliminate government.

  27. No, libertarianism is all about denying anyone the ability to amass very much power at all. Plenty of wealth, but not much power.

    But wealth is power.

  28. Same reason they won’t run the Metro out to Georgetown.

    Um, it is not about color or income. It is about behavior and, frankly, smell.

    When I lived in Reston I was against getting METRO rail out there. Now that I am in Arlington, I am not so much against it as I was (other than that libertarian thing about being against government mass transit), but the damn smelly annoying bums, like the one arrested (for trying to fight anybody passing by) in front of my building about a week ago, really need to stay on the Mall in DC.

  29. But wealth is power.

    I thought opium was power?

  30. But wealth is power.

    No, wealth is wealth. Wealth gives you the ability to hire people or buy things from them, but not the ability to coerce them

    Now, you can use your wealth to hire people to coerce other people, but that doesn’t mean it makes sense to say “wealth is power” any more than it makes sense to say “wealth is art” because you can use it hire people to paint picures.

  31. Now, you can use your wealth to hire people to coerce other people, but that doesn’t mean it makes sense to say “wealth is power” any more than it makes sense to say “wealth is art” because you can use it hire people to paint picures

    But it is speech, right?

  32. “…you can use your wealth to hire people to coerce other people….”

    That sounds like a good working definition of “lobbying.”

  33. Now, you can use your wealth to hire people to coerce other people,…

    And you’d then need to use more of your wealth to pay off the cops and prosecutors to keep them from trying to arrest and prosecute you for any number of crimes.

    Sounds like a good formula for losing a lot of wealth to me. 🙂

  34. I thought opium was power?

    I thought time was money. Yeah, yeah, I know, money is money.

    But wealth is power.

    The power to do what exactly?

  35. But it is speech, right?

    Restricting your ability to spend money on something is the same as restricting your ability to do that thing yourself.

  36. But it’s the power of politics that prevents the rich from throwing you in prison at their whim.

    I think it is more like the Rule of Law that prevents that from happening.

  37. Our wealthy oligarchical scoundrels have come to believe that “we the people” owe them sweetheart deals. You know, as rewards for being wealthy or summat.

    And it’s still too early to shoot the bastards.

  38. Restricting your ability to spend money on something is the same as restricting your ability to do that thing yourself.

    Well, almost. If they restrict manufacture, sale, or transportation importation and exportation of something, like in Amendment XVIII then you are correct.

    If manufacture or transfer is not prohibited, then no it is not quite the same, it just adds more friction to the transaction.

  39. can we have a law that allows us to blanket beat anybody with
    1) Black Dog Tavern wear
    2) boston redsux apparel
    3) anything with the word “phat” on it?

  40. can we have a law that allows us to blanket beat anybody with . . .

    At one time, in the 1990s(?), the State of Tennessee restricted the maximum civil award for being assaulted for flag burning at $2.00.

    I sent in $4.00 in advance.

  41. oh – and anything that has to do with

    1) Dave Matthews
    2) Blue Man Group
    3) “Friends”

    (this might be redundant – defining a larger group. if so, Norbert will chew on your taint)

    actually, if any these three are combined with #1, 2 above, you get sent to Chardon, Ohio.

  42. Which illustrates a problem with libertarianism as a working philosophy – it gives people the right to amass as much power as they can, and then hopes that they don’t use it.

    The rich, when they can use their money to buy power, use the mechanics of government. Having a few billion dollars will never give me the right to beat others with impunity. Having a few billion dollars, and spending some of it to bribe a politician to pass a law allowing the rich to beat the poor with impunity, will give me the right to beat others with impunity.

    Almost any time you see the poor being exploited by the rich, it is because the law is designed to allow them to do so. It treats some people differently than others. In a libertarian society, the law treats all equally. The rich can’t amass much power, because they can’t force the government to give them rights that others don’t have; it’s simply not in the government’s purview to do so. Similarly, the rights of the poor can’t be taken away.

    Almost any monopoly you see is because of a government grant of that monopoly. If labor can’t organize into unions, it is because the law will not allow it. These are examples of the abuse of governmental power in favor of the rich, and against the poor. The answer isn’t to make sure that governmental power is only used for good ends. There is no way to ensure that. In fact, it is inevitable that governmental power will be used for bad ends. Those who administer the government are people, who are weak and will give in to temptation just as surely as anyone else will at some point. Often, they will then use their power and influence to shield themselves from the repercussions of their abuse of power if they are allowed to. The rich and the powerful will become partners in exploiting those without influence, because they can.

    This isn’t just theory; it has happened time and again in human history. The only thing that seems to work is to limit the power of the government to do evil. This also limits the power of the government to do good, but so be it. In the end, although some cases slip through the cracks, you are going to get more equality and more freedom and more justice, however you define it, through a limited government than through a powerful government.

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