One of the things I often hear from the conservatives is that they are against “government subsidies.” Usually, this means they don’t like federal aid to education, the government helping alternative energy industries, or some other thing that offends them. They think that people should do without them, be strong, independent, and not have to depend on the federal government’s “interference” with industries and people. Yes, indeed, they’re against them – until they’re for them.
I was reminded of that reading a news story in one of the local papers. One of the local counties wants to upgrade its airport. It’s a heavily Republican county, by the way, with a sizable Tea Party contingent. What struck me? This:
The FAA usually takes care of 95 percent of the costs, and any investment by the county would likely pay for itself by generating new tax income, they say. Between fuel sales, hotel rooms and meals, airport officials estimate every landing translates into $2,500 in sales tax revenue for the county.
Because a new computer chip plant is being built – with lots of tax incentives being given to the manufacturer to do so – they see the need to upgrade the local airport. But the federal government is going to pay for most of it. In short, an area that regularly complains about taxes, government spending, and rails against subsidies happens to be handing out subsidies and looking for them for a project.
This is just one example. Here’s another:
Stuhlmiller, of the state farm bureau, said he’s hopeful that Congress will make changes to the Endangered Species Act, which he said has resulted in too many regulations for property owners. And he’d like to see the new chairman press for changes that would allow ranchers and farmers to use more federal land.
“When the livestock get fattened on that public ground, it helps feed the world,” Stuhlmiller said.
Let’s see if I get this right. They want the the federal government to let them use our land (as in the taxpayers) so they can have more cattle. If past experience is any guide – and it will be – they’ll expect that to be free or at a very low fee. In other words, a subsidy. Those are not the only examples. Whole industries depend on one form or another of a federal subsidy, even if it’s not called that. Timber companies cut trees in national forests – and don’t pay market rate. Oil companies get to drill on federal land, getting tax breaks and reduced royalty payments to do so. Rural states get funding for their roads, paid for by the gas taxes that are paid in heavily populated states. There’s a wide range of things that depend on them.
But that’s OK. I can put on my “conservative hat” as well. If Saratoga County wants to improve its airport, they should go ahead. I don’t see why my federal taxes should be used to pay for it. They can do it on their own. Ranchers want grazing land for cattle? They need to buy it, or pay market rates for the right to graze on federal land. If they can’t make it without that, then they need to either get efficient or do something else. Timber companies and oil companies should do without their tax breaks, and pay exactly what it’s worth, no reductions. If they can’t do that, then they need to go out of business or figure out how to keep going without it. The states who are getting more in funding than they’re paying in taxes? That stops. They get back exactly what they paid, no more. Hey, my state can use the money on its roads just as much as they can, and we’d get more.
Conservative enough for you? After all, we have the government subsidizing those people, states, and industries. Do you think they’d accept that reasoning? I doubt it. They apparently couldn’t make it, or would have real trouble if they weren’t getting them. I think they’d be on the phone to their Congressional representatives so fast, it’d be remarkable. I predict the same conservative Republicans who are against “government subsidies” would be pounding podiums, standing in front of microphones, and issuing thundering pronouncements on the need for these vital programs which are so necessary to the way of life that their constituents enjoy. Their government subsidized way of life. Not that they’re for government subsidies. Except in this case. But it’s really not a subsidy since they “pay taxes.” Well, you know what? So do the other industries and people. One of the more interesting things is that many of the places these people come from are dependent on the federal dollar, and often receive more in federal money than they pay in. The states that are “liberal” turn out to be the ones paying the freight.
There is a difference between arguing that a given subsidy is unnecessary and arguing against subsidies in general. That’s why I find more than a whiff of hypocrisy with various conservatives. They like to to tout the free market, they like to thunder about small government, and decry government subsidies. They just don’t want to do it themselves. The reality? They don’t want to do away with government subsidies. Just the ones that don’t benefit them.