Tossing money at most anyone who shows up in Washington touting a sob story in the company of a lobbyist is doing more than impoverishing taxpayers. The process is corrupting everyone it touches or has the possibility of touching. With the president-elect talking of a “stimulus” package approaching a trillion dollars, business desperately wants in on the dole. When it comes to socialism, there are no stronger supporters than businessmen seeking a subsidy!
President-elect Barack Obama’s stimulus plan aims to help Main Street, but it is already sparking boom times on K Street as lobbyists from a host of U.S. industries seek a share of the projected $800 billion package.
Wind farms want permanent tax credits. The steel industry wants “Buy American” protection for infrastructure projects in the bill. Home builders want a national low mortgage rate, guaranteed by Uncle Sam. Universities want money for campus repairs, as well as $700 more per student in federal grants.
The spending requests total many times the likely size of the package. Environmentalists alone put together a wish list of 80 projects that add up to $405 billion.
With a fight likely over a pie that, however large, isn’t big enough for all, industries are crafting creative pitches to show that assistance to them would provide the fastest, broadest or most comprehensive stimulus.
The U.S. Travel Association, which represents hotel, resort and theme-park operators, wants the stimulus package to include a measure they have pushed for years, establishing a government office to pitch American tourism to foreigners.
“When you’re looking at stimulating the American economy, it doesn’t get any better than bringing people into the country,” said Geoff Freeman, senior vice president of the association. “They come, they leave their money, and they go home with a better impression of the United States.”
Although the financial sector has received more than $1 trillion in federal rescue money over the past year, its lobbyists are pushing for more.
The Financial Services Roundtable, a coalition of the 100 largest financial-services companies, sent a letter to congressional leaders Monday asking for several tax breaks, including the doubling of the mortgage-interest deduction for first-time home buyers, and allowing companies to accelerate deductions for bad debt.
“Good government” activists always want to believe that they can rig the rules to turn politics into an adult version of a school civics club. But the more loot government has to distribute, the harder everyone will fight for a piece of the action. Want honest government? Shrink its size and budget.