When a non-American scholar I admired let slip a casual reference to "American corruption" a few years ago, my chauvinistic pride was wounded. This isn't Mexico, after all, or even Italy, where bribes are the normal social lubricant. Still, an unsentimental examination of government dollars at work seems to confirm my friend's observation.
A small example: The U.S. government has announced plans to spend $340 million on an advertising campaign to promote the Census, including $2.5 million for ads during the Super Bowl. Though the nation has been collecting this data for 220 years, it seems we now need commercial jingles to complete the forms. Or could there be another agenda? The government, reports The Hill newspaper, will target $80 million of those dollars to racial and ethnic minorities and non-English speakers -- groups that vote disproportionately Democratic. Nor will Democrats permit efforts to limit the count to those here legally. An effort by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., to exclude illegal aliens from the count went nowhere.
Illegal aliens don't (usually) vote, of course. But when they are counted in the Census, they do affect representation in the Congress. So some of the money you pay in taxes will go toward increasing the legislative clout of one party.
That same party has seen to its own perpetuation in other ways, too. Consider the $787 billion stimulus bill. Veronique de Rugy and Jerry Brito of George Mason University report that "a total of 56,399 contracts and grants totaling $157,028,362,536 were awarded in this first quarter for which Recovery.gov reports are available. The number of jobs claimed as created or saved is 638,826.54 -- an average of $245,807.51 per job."
But it gets more interesting. "There are 177 districts represented by Republicans and 259 represented by Democrats," they write. "On average, Democratic districts received 1.6 times more awards than Republican ones. The average number of awards per Republican district is 94, while the average number of awards per Democratic district is 152." Democratic districts also received nearly twice the dollar value of funds as Republican ones.
While the stimulus was sold as a solution to unemployment (it was supposed to keep the rate from going above 8 percent, remember?), unemployment has continued to climb since passage. That's not surprising when you consider that the overwhelming majority of funds (116,625 grants) have gone to governments, not the private sector (13,080 grants).
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