Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at thinking, intelligent individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

25 April 2009

1804 Federal Subsidy Programs

No, I am not going to discuss the federal government subsidy programs of 1804. The number in the title is the number of federal subsidy programs in 2008 according to a recent Cato Institute study by Chris Edwards.

The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, 2,205 pages, lists federal programs for aid, subsidies, grants, loans, insurance, scholarships, and other benefits. The number of such programs by year is reproduced below:

2008 1804
2006 1696 [Edwards, Cato Institute, Tax and Budget Bulletin of 2006]
2005 1645
2000 1425
1995 1390
1990 1176
1985 1013 [Cutbacks by President Ronald Reagan]
1980 1123
1975 1009
1970 1019

The biggest new subsidy program was the $62 billion prescription drug program. Among the other programs are:

Homeland Security Grants $1,040,000,000
Local Firefighter Staffing $180,500,000
Clean Diesel Funding Assistance $156,000,000
Healthy Marriage Promotion $150,000,000
Community Abstinence Education $117,054,000
Education Data Systems Grants $100,000,000
Small Shipyard Grants $98,000,000
Bioenergy Fuels Grants $80,000,000
Specialty Crop Block Grant $49,000,000
Anti-gang State Grants $45,000,000
Laura Bush Librarian Program $26,500,000
Senior Farmers Market Program $22,000,000

As Edwards points out there is more and more funding and, no doubt, interference of the federal government in state and local government affairs revealed in these programs. What on earth is the federal government doing to promote healthy marriages? Frankly, no government has any business messing with marriages. The only proper role of government is to issue domestic partnership contracts as far as I am concerned. Then there is the nonsense and uselessness of the Community Abstinence Education grants! Stay out of our sex lives government! In fact, if government would also stay out of the education business and allow private schooling its proper role, we would have much more rational people and many of their sexual and marriage problems would be ameliorated. Then there are the subsidized fuel programs for clean diesel and for biofuels in this list. The two massively bloated farm bill of 2008 added many subsidies. Examples are apparently the Specialty Crop Block Grants and the Senior Farmers Market Programs above. Why on earth do Senior Farmers need a special market program?

What areas gave rise to the biggest increases in numbers of programs? Here is the list:

Interior, +88
Agriculture, +74
Homeland Security, +64
Transportation, +33
Health & Human Services, +27
Justice, +15

So, not only does Interior hog huge fractions of the land of many states, especially in the west, but it also is especially prolific in producing subsidy programs. I wonder what kind of mischief they are up to, other than refusing to allow anywhere near enough drilling for oil and gas and interfering with attempts to develop coal, tar sands, and oil shale extractions. Both the 2002 and 2008 huge farm bills produced the big increase in the subsidies of the Agriculture Department.

The reasons offered for most of these programs have little to do with their real purpose. The real purpose is always to buy votes in elections. There is little effort ever made to determine the effectiveness of these programs. When a program is shown to be ineffective, it is very rarely ended. Commonly, a completely false assertion is made that they are effective, with the facts being so blatantly ignored that one cannot help but know that the politicians and bureaucrats are lying.

I am still waiting for Congress to end the Ethanol Mandates now that it is well-known scientifically that there is no net energy production from corn-based ethanol and there is no pollution reduction advantage to mixing ethanol in with gasoline. I expect to have to wait a very long time because the program's real reason for existence was always as an excuse to subsidize farming and the ethanol refining companies such as ADM. Meanwhile, the program drives up the cost of corn, corn oil, corn syrup, beef, chicken, and pork directly and because farmland, water, and fertilizer are diverted to corn production, fewer soybean, wheat, and other crops are grown and the farm inputs cost more, which causes their prices to go up due to the ever-present law of supply and demand. This is just an example of the way in which subsidies for one thing drive up costs for many other things in our economy.

If you want to start putting some pressure on the politicians, go to www.usaspending.gov and look up the subsidy programs and who is getting the money and start complaining about it.

Meanwhile, government debt soars and will continue to do so until Americans finally throw the bums out of Washington. Then, the voters must return to the principle that the only non-tyrannical government is that which exists only to protect and defend the sovereign individual right to his own life, his liberty, his property, and his pursuit of happiness. We must insist that politicians are not appointed to choose our values for us and then to force us to live our lives in accordance with the values they have chosen.

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