When the weight of big government has me worn down at day’s end I occasionally look at a few politician photo-ops to keep me motivated. A good source is the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA): (See here.)
The latest EDA photo-op shows Sen. Harry Reid presenting a goofy oversized check from the U.S. Treasury (i.e., taxpayers) to some of his Nevada constituents to help build a technology park to be named after (drum roll please)…Sen. Harry Reid.
The arrogance is breathtaking, until one remembers that we’re talking about a man who earns his living spending other people’s money (largely against their will). The picture also illustrates why it is difficult to get rid of even the most obvious losers in the federal budget.
The EDA provides grants and loans to state and local governments, nonprofit groups, and private businesses in regions under “economic distress.” It was born in the 1960s and has survived several attempts to kill it, including efforts by the Reagan administration and congressional Republicans in the 1990s. The EDA’s wasteful spending is legendary and it is notorious for exaggerating its successes, which have often proved to be illusory. (A perfect example of an EDA boondoggle can be viewed here.)
Unfortunately, the EDA survives for a common reason: the agency’s benefits are concentrated on special interests and its costs dispersed across millions of taxpayers. EDA administrators are aware of this reality and cultivate support from Congress by including politicians in the publicizing of money given to constituents. Press releases are coordinated with congressional offices to maximize political gain for both the EDA and the benefiting legislator.
It is little wonder that former EDA director Orson Swindle labeled the agency a “congressional cookie jar.” He realized that private actors in unfettered markets, not government bureaucrats, are better at fostering economic development. Swindle said, “The minute politics enters the equation, rational financial management and economic decision-making goes out the window.”
Getting back to Sen. Reid, yes, I know I’m singling him out for tawdry behavior routinely engaged in by most of his colleagues. But don’t feel too sorry for him. In February, the Nevada Biotechnology & Bioscience Consortium gave its first ever “Harry Reid Award for Biotechnology and Bioscience Achievements” to (one more drum roll please)…Sen. Harry Reid!