I have two items published today about how governments and other tax‐consumers use taxpayer dollars to lobby the government to get more taxpayer dollars. Politico Arena asks, “Will the public warm up to the health care law?” My reply:
I’m amused — at best — that the vast United States government is using my tax dollars to try to persuade voters that the signature legislative accomplishment of the president’s term is actually a good idea. Search Google for the term “Obamacare,” and the first paid link is for healthcare.gov, a government propaganda site for the Affordable Care Act. They’re also using Medicare.gov that way. And roping in poor old Andy Griffith for a TV ad that Factcheck.org says uses “weasel words” to “mislead” seniors.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the administration had a “lot of reeducation to do.” If administration officials were confident that their health care scheme was a good idea, they wouldn’t need to spend tax dollars — in a year when the deficit exceeds $1.5 trillion — to try to sell it to the citizens. And this raises a real question for democratic governance: Are the people supposed to tell policymakers what policies they want, or should policymakers use the people’s money to tell them what they should want?
Meanwhile, at the Britannica Blog I cite other examples of tax‐funded lobbying:
Between broadcasts of “Downton Abbey” and “Frontline,” PBS viewers are implored to call their congressman and keep the money flowing. Public radio websites blare “Protect KCRW, Write your representative, write your senator.” Announcements on the radio carry the same message.…
My colleague Richard Rahn complains, “Taxpayer dollars are also used to fund international organizations, which, in turn, lobby the U.S. Congress for not only more money for themselves, but also for higher taxes on the American people.”…
The Hill newspaper reported in 2009, “Auto companies and eight of the country’s biggest banks that received tens of billions of dollars in federal bailout money spent more than $20 million on lobbying Washington lawmakers in the first half of this year.” Later in the year the Huffington Post found, “Twenty‐five top recipients of government bailout funds spent more than $71 million on lobbying in the year since they were rescued.”
And I ask:
Lobbying is constitutionally protected. The First Amendment guarantees not just freedom of speech and of the press but also “the right of the people…to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” But does that mean the government itself has a right to petition itself for a piece of the pie?