Government for the Yachters 

Here's a personal story.

Folks sometimes ask me how I got onto to my anti-Big Business, anti-Big Government kick. Sometimes I credit the moment I helped Novak with a column about Enron's backing U.S. ratification of Kyoto. Sometimes I go back further to the day I discovered the Export-Import Bank of the United States. But it may trace back to a story I remember reading, a high schooler or middle schooler, in our local Gannett paper back home in lower Westchester.

The story -- as I remember it nearly 20 years later -- was about an earmark Congresswoman Nita Lowey was bringing home, for dredging the Mamaroneck Harbor. I figured this was an environmental effort, but at some point in the story, the reporter explained the harbor was becoming too shallow "to accomodate the larger yachts."

Increasingly, I came to see that this much of what government does: accomodate the metaphorical larger yachts.

But back in New York, our lawmakers are at it again. Chuck Schumer has announced Department of Interior Boating Infrastructure Grants (BIGs). After plenty of talk of economic stimulus, Schumer's press release explains what will be done with these grants:

Grantees use Boating Infrastructure Grant funds to construct, renovate, and maintain facilities with features for transient boats (those staying 10 days or less)  that are 26 feet or more in length and used for recreation.

Ira Stoll at the Future of Capitalism has the same reaction I did:

Why should Americans who can't afford yachts 26 feet or more in length be taxed to subsidize those who can? It's a reverse Robin-Hood. You'd think politicians would be racing to issue press releases boasting about cutting this kind of spending from the federal budget, not press releases taking credit for it. We're going to borrow money from the Chinese or future generations or tax Americans to build marinas in Rochester for recreational boats 26 feet or more in length?

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Timothy P. Carney

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