Tad DeHaven

Brian Reis, who runs a company making potato chips and other snack food about 100 miles from Cleveland, says he is grateful for the attention. Reis, a Republican, has received three Small Business Administration loans totaling $3.9 million since Obama took office, along with a $2 million loan during the Bush administration. In August, the agency’s head, Karen Mills, toured his facility for the launch of a kit that allows people to flavor their own gourmet potato chips. Last year, Biden singled him out in a speech near Cleveland…

Then there was Joe Miceli, head of Miceli Dairy Products in Cleveland, which makes ricotta and other cheeses. He was the first to benefit from a new law that raised the limit for SBA loans for manufacturing from $2.5 million to $5.5 million, winning $5.49 million in December 2010. Two months later, Obama cited the loan at an event with small-business leaders in Cleveland. This year, the agency has approved 2,726 loans for Ohio businesses. That is nearly 500 more than Florida, a state with 7.3 million more people.

Uh-oh. Does Mrs. Obama know that the federal government is subsidizing companies that produce potato chips and fatty cheeses? Did the SBA not get the message from the First Lady’s office that the plebs are to be consuming leafy greens? But wisecracks aside, is entrepreneurship in this country so hard up that Uncle Sam needs to backstop loans to potato chip manufacturers?

Of course, the administration’s spokespeople all swear that the flow of federal funds into Ohio had nothing to do with politics. And perhaps little or none of the money was directly earmarked by the White House. But anyone who has ever spent more than a month working for the chief executive of a governmental unit knows that the king’s high servants earn their keep by making sure to maximize the political benefits of taxpayer handouts.

I would know.

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Tad DeHaven

Tad DeHaven is a budget analyst at the Cato Institute. Previously he was a deputy director of the Indiana Office of Management and Budget. DeHaven also worked as a budget policy advisor to Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Tom Coburn (R-OK).