John McCain’s Follies, Part One

NOTE: This post was delayed because the snow took out our internet connection. Then it took out the phone. But it can’t take the books or the kerosene lamp…

Larwyn had a feature recently on one of Don Surber’s posts.

I like Mr. Surber’s writing; he was a good choice by the Charleston Daily Mail for a blog. Generally I agree with his point of view. But I was disappointed this time. He sided with John McCain’s list of the ten worst pork projects. Mr. Surber can be forgiven for taking what was on the list at face value; Senator McCain cannot. He is overpaid to perform due diligence on the bills before the Senate. In this case, he ought to be docked a month’s pay for bloviating.

If what follows, compiled by Senator McCain and his staff, is the worst he can come up with, I am embarrassed for him and his office. I am angry at his cavalier dismissal of these projects. He gives no background to his top (or, rather, his bottom) ten pork sins. His negligence in providing any context for this list is akin to the failure of the MSM to adequately research its “news” items.

I will reiterate what I’ve said before: the Senator is to be congratulated on his insistence that he will never sponsor an earmark. I applaud his integrity. If only the rest of the Imperial Senate thought this way, we’d have a sane — and much smaller — government.

But there is so much waste and discrimination in the massive abomination which Congress just passed that I can’t help but wonder if Senator McCain’s methodology was not to simply pick a random page out of those 1,000+ measures and stick a pin in one, thus choosing his list. He would only have to grab every hundredth page or so, stick a pin somewhere, and write down the item before moving on to the next batch of pages. In fact that methodology might have produced a better list than he gave us.

There is certainly shock and awe on every single sheet in the Porkulus Proclamation; finding egregious spending projects on each page is not a difficult task. But Senator McCain is being paid well. The least he might have done is to perform due diligence on that prime slab of fat we just had rammed down our throats. We deserve better, much better, than the information the Senator provided. No wonder the Republicans are disappearing.

Let’s take a look at this list of Senator Mc Cain’s worst choices, but first a few points about the whole list:

  • these are small potatoes compared to 99.9% of what is in the Porkulus
  • notice that each of these projects actually has an end product of some kind
  • some of these ideas will actually lower future outlays of government money and at least one or more will increase revenue.

Mrs. McCain, please buy your husband a clue bag.

Here’s the Senator’s top sin:

#1. 7 million for pig odor research in Iowa

a million piggies go to marketTo which I will say that McCain needs to get out of the Capitol and spend a bit more time in reality. In some places, the odor from the pig factories has affected real estate values of nearby houses and left people stuck in a highly unpleasant environment. Perhaps if he spent a bit of time talking to those affected by this problem then his next meal of, say, pork medallions, might not appear so appetizing.

Some commenters on Mr. Surber’s blog faulted the home owners for building their property near a pig factory, which shows how little they know about this problem. The homes were already there, sometimes for generations, before the large scale hog factories were established:

Preliminary studies have found that hog waste poses human health threats. The presence of pathogens (disease-causing organisms) in hog waste applied to land, antibiotic resistance, dust, and heavy metals in lagoon sludge are potential concerns. Despite the known and potential environmental problems associated with hog factories in North Carolina, hog production operations are insufficiently monitored. In fact, the extent of leakage of hog waste from lagoons into groundwater and the release of nitrogen into the air from hog waste are not inspected, measured, or monitored at all.

The dust from these spraying operations carries for miles in the atmosphere.

On the other hand, the corporations which are responsible for these factories bear a large responsibility in the harm caused. Local citizens can have some effect if they make enough noise. In our county, there is now a moratorium on future hog factories. The big corporations finally gave up after fierce citizen opposition and lots of contentious county supervisors’ meetings. I’ve never seen people so mad and so determined to bring a halt to the smell and pollution.

The corporations tried to pass these off as “family farms” when the reality was that they talked local farmers into partnerships and built the factories on those lands. The fact that they got away with it to begin with showed that we needed more land usage oversight from our municipal officials. We finally got it, but not without costs.

#2. $2 million “for the promotion of astronomy” in Hawaii

Obviously, the Senator is not familiar with the Mauna Kea Observatories. Click the link and move your cursor over the various international observation facilities maintained by Canada, France, Taiwan, Japan, the UK, and the Netherlands. In addition, the Gemini observatory is maintained by a consortium of seven countries. Cal Tech and the University of Hawaii also have observatories on Mauna Kea.

Obviously, agriculture is not his strong suit. It looks like science isn’t either…
– – – – – – – –
#3. $332,000 for the design and construction of a school sidewalk in Franklin, Texas

This ought to be in a local school budget. Even better, it ought to be a volunteer program formed by the parents of children in the school. That might take some doing, considering that Franklin has a per capita income of $13,000.00 a year.

Franklin is building a new school and is probably over-budget with no money left for sidewalks…so you put down plank walks until you have the money for concrete and a construction supervisor.

Nonetheless, 332K is a small spot in those thousand pages. And at the end of it at least you have a sidewalk complex between the school buildings. Compare this to the millions being salted back into the D.C. bureaucracy — where the end result is just more bureaucrats at the trough.

Sorry, Senator, but a sidewalk linking schools — in a town whose income is so modest you and Mrs. McCain could probably buy the whole darn place just by selling one of your homes — just doesn’t make it as a mortal sin earmark.

#4. $2.1 million for the Center for Grape Genetics in New York

What, Senator you think that the wine you drink with dinner grows in bottles? If we don’t keep up with the research, we’ll lose the momentum we’ve gained in enology in this country. And if you think $2.1 million for Grape Genetics is sinful, read the rest of the list that the Honorable Mr. Hinchey from New York (and not coincidentally) on the Appropriations Committee, managed to snare for upper New York state: [emphases are mine — D]

Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Congressman Michael A. Arcuri (D-NY) Thursday announced that they have secured final congressional approval of more than $7.18 million for the construction of a Grape Genetics Research facility at the New York State Agriculture Experiment Station in Geneva, ongoing apple and grape research programs at Cornell University, and other agricultural research projects at the school. The funds are included in the Omnibus Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2009…

The funds Hinchey and Arcuri secured together are allocated as follows:

  • $2.2 million Center for Grape Genetics, Geneva, NY: The funds will go toward construction of a $29.6 million USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) facility that will focus on research programs to help make the U.S. wine industry more competitive. The Center for Grape Genetic Research will replace the current outdated ARS facilities in Geneva with a state-of-the-art research building. Congress has now appropriated a total of $13.13 million for the center. ARS has completed planning, design, and site prep work. The agency is ready to commence construction as soon as the balance of construction funds is appropriated.
  • $1.4 million Viticulture Consortium: The Viticulture Consortium (VC) is a multi-state special research grant that operates as a national competitive grants program to fund applied, mission specific research relevant to grape growing. The VC enhances research coordination and collaboration, improves efficiency, and eliminates duplication of effort. The consortium has now received more than $10.3 million to enhance grape production throughout the country. The wine and grape industry is a $7 billion industry in New York State. New York ranks third in national grape production, behind only California and Washington. Nationwide, the wine and grape industry is responsible for 1.1 million jobs and $33 million in wages paid. The Congressional Wine Caucus recently oversaw a national economic impact study which concluded that the wine, grape and grape products industries contribute over $162 billion to the American economy each year.
  • $346,000, Apple Fire Blight Research: The apple fire blight research seeks to understand and manage the apple fire blight disease by investigating the molecular basis of disease resistance in apples and developing disease resistant apple varieties. Fire blight is the most damaging disease affecting apple trees in New York State and nationally. Crop and tree losses and the costs of control measures cost more than $100 million per year nationally. In a bad year, New York State losses can reach $10 million. All 60,000 acres of apples in New York State are vulnerable to the disease and may succumb when the weather favors the disease with rain, heavy dews, and high humidity. More than $2.6 million has now been appropriated for this project. Apple is the biggest tree fruit crop in New York, worth more than $2 billion annually. New York State produces 25 million bushels of apples each year (53 percent sold as fresh fruit and 47 percent for processing). New York’s 694 family apple farms create 10,000 agricultural jobs. Only Washington State grows more apples than New York.
  • $131,000, Computational Agriculture: The Computational Agriculture Initiative funds a program to enable farmers to use high performance computational tools to make sound crop management decisions.
  • $258,000, Environmental Research: The Environmental Research grant is administered by Cornell’s North American Nitrogen Center. The program seeks to gain a better understanding of the sources and sinks of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment in a large rural watershed of mixed land use.
  • $693,000, Food Safety Research Consortium: The Food Safety Research Consortium works with consumer groups, industry, and government to conduct food safety research and to facilitate the development and use of tools to help the food industry and regulatory agencies improve food safety.
  • $377,000, Human Nutrition: The Human Nutrition Grant supports research to increase fundamental knowledge of human nutrition, with a special focus on nutritional requirements and nutrient dynamics during pregnancy in ethnically and genetically diverse populations.
  • $693,000, Livestock and Dairy Policy: This program will help Cornell and Texas A&M evaluate policy proposals of national significance to the dairy and livestock industries. Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Congress rely on this program for analysis of proposals that affect the dairy and livestock industries.
  • $1.04 million, Beef Cattle Genetic Evaluation: Will help Cornell and other universities with work to develop sophisticated genetic evaluation techniques to assist beef producers in breeding cattle for select traits.

Those are all useful programs. What one can question is

(a) How much do these industries — grapes, apples, etc., — contribute to the research pot?
(b) How much does New York state contribute to programs on projects like “rural watershed of mixed land use”; in fact, how much responsibility are individual states assuming for this kind of research and how dependent have they become on the Feds?
(c) How much incentive does the Federal government supply to these industries and states in the form of tax credits (not deductions) and/or penalties?

For example, the hog industry ought to have just as much oversight and curtailment and badgering as the various coal and oil companies get. The meat producers are major polluters. Where is their cap-and-trade program? Same thing goes for the large agri-businesses and their overuse of land and fertilizers and the resultant runoff waste into streams, ponds and lakes. May we have more oversight here or has Archer Daniels Midland already bought out both parties?

It would seem so.

See this essay on the egregiously subsidized ADM. In fact, if your family makes $250,000.00 a year, print this out and chew on it while you do your taxes. Here’s the summary from the Cato Institute on this deplorable conglomerate:

The Archer Daniels Midland Corporation (ADM) has been the most prominent recipient of corporate welfare in recent U.S. history. ADM and its chairman Dwayne Andreas have lavishly fertilized both political parties with millions of dollars in handouts and in return have reaped billion-dollar windfalls from taxpayers and consumers. Thanks to federal protection of the domestic sugar industry, ethanol subsidies, subsidized grain exports, and various other programs, ADM has cost the American economy billions of dollars since 1980 and has indirectly cost Americans tens of billions of dollars in higher prices and higher taxes over that same period. At least 43 percent of ADM’s annual profits are from products heavily subsidized or protected by the American government. Moreover, every $1 of profits earned by ADM’s corn sweetener operation costs consumers $10, and every $1 of profits earned by its ethanol operation costs taxpayers $30

One of the most politically charged debates in Washington revolves around business subsidies known as “corporate welfare.” A number of policy organizations have published studies examining the corporate welfare phenomenon: what qualifies as corporate welfare, how much it costs taxpayers, and how much it damages the economy. This study examines the dynamics of corporate welfare somewhat differently by investigating ADM as a classic case study of how those subsidies are obtained, how the welfare state encourages such “rent seeking,” and how such practices fundamentally corrupt the political life of a nation. Congress’s expressed desire to foster a free marketplace cannot be taken seriously until ADM’s corporate hand is removed from the federal till.

ADM is certainly the nation’s most arrogant welfare recipient. And it is one of the few welfare recipients that spend millions of dollars each year advertising on Sunday morning television shows populated and watched by politicians. Chairman Dwayne Andreas’s and ADM’s success in farming Washington represents the rational result of contemporary government policies that turn elections into “an advanced auction of stolen goods,” as H. L. Mencken quipped. Thanks to its multi-million-dollar hustling in Washington, a company that lives and dies on the generosity of the American taxpayer has managed to get itself revered as a great public servant. Although ADM is not the only corporation with its hand out in Washington, it is easily one of the most successful beggars on the block.

Andreas recently told a reporter for Mother Jones, “There isn’t one grain of anything in the world that is sold in a free market. Not one! The only place you see a free market is in the speeches of politicians. People who are not in the Midwest do not understand that this is a socialist country.”…

Want some high-fructose corn syrup with that? Guess who makes it?

At least this robber baron of agriculture is frank about his theft. The next time you hear one of the Archer Daniels Midland commercials on National Public Radio — you know, the commercial-free station that depends on your contributions — remember that this is the evil underbelly of capitalism combined with statism. It doesn’t get much worse than ADM, unless maybe you start naming some of the meat-packing companies. No…come to think of it, they are far behind ADM.

I’ve just about worn out my indignationometer. So I’ll save the other five for next time.

In Part II, I’ll deal with the other half of the “worst ten earmarks” as postulated by Senator McCain. The choices he made get more pitiful and picayune as we travel down the list.

I swan…by 2010, everybody is going to be in full “Throw the Bums Out” mode. Come to think of it, many of us are already there.

3 thoughts on “John McCain’s Follies, Part One

  1. The only way to stop pig excrement from stinking is to stop pigs from having the need to expel their excrement. You don’t even need the wind to blow in your direction to smell a pig farm.

  2. Joanne —

    I’m not suggesting that we eliminate pig farms. I am saying that concentrating them in tenement-like conditions will work about as well as public housing did.

    The advantages of economies of scale are outweighed by the fierce problems that concentration causes in both programs.

  3. Dympha – I was just having a little fun. When I travel, I can always smell a pig farm long before I can see it. Unfortunately, as you say, the advantages of economies of scale have its drawbacks – smelly ones in this case.

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