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."