How do YOU spell "government relief"?
Spell it P-L-U-N-D-E-R.
The latest example is the Small Business Administration's "Supplemental Terrorist Activity Relief" loan program, whose money was supposed to go to businesses directly impacted by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But now the SBA loan program has been exposed as a complete and total fraud. SBA flunkies diverted "terrorism relief" money into the pockets of virtually anybody, anywhere, who applied for it.
According to investigations and audits, "terrorism recovery loans went to businesses including a South Dakota radio station, a Virgin Islands perfume shop, a Utah dog boutique, and more than 100 Dunkin' Donuts and Subway sandwich shops in various locations. Meanwhile, small businesses near Ground Zero in New York couldn't get the assistance they desperately sought."
These revelations have generated impressive displays of furrowed brows and indignant hrrumphing on Capitol Hill, as politicians pledge to get to the bottom of this latest spending outrage (in a gargantuan federal budget that they refuse to cut). But does anyone believe for a moment that a single head will roll over this?
Of course not. That's because the bureaucrats in charge will all plead Good Intentions, and thus be morally exonerated. Okay, they will say contritely, maybe the money didn't go to victims of "terrorism," exactly...but still, weren't all of these recipients "worthy" to receive government help?
My blunt answer is: No.
The larger issue here is not the profligate "waste, fraud, and abuse" of tax dollars. Nor is it the legal "eligibility" or "ineligibility" of recipients. Rather, it is the moral premise at the foundation of all such "helping" programs: the premise that government has the right, indeed the moral obligation, to forcibly deprive some people (taxpayers) of their hard-earned money, and to transfer that looted cash into the pockets of those who did not earn it (tax eaters).
The government's use of legal force to seize and redistribute wealth and property is cannibalism elevated to the dignity of a moral theory. It is the view that producers are sacrificial lambs, existing solely to be fleeced for the benefit of non-producers. It is the premise that individuals do not have the right to exist for their own sakes, but exist only for the sake of others.
The great 19th-century French economist Frederic Bastiat said it best. "The state," he declared, "is that great fiction by which everyone seeks to exist at the expense of everyone else."
In the case of the SBA terrorism loans, the basic wrong was not the inappropriate diversion of taxpayer money to "ineligible" recipients. The basic wrong is that no one is morally "eligible" to receive money that must be forcibly extracted from his neighbors. The overarching evil is not "abuse" within the Small Business Administration; the evil, and the abuse, is the very existence of such a creature as the Small Business Administration, whose sole mission is to take the wealth swiped from taxpaying producers and give it to tax-eating parasites, parasites whom we euphemistically refer to as "beneficiaries."
If you wish to help, privately and voluntarily, the victims of 9/11, or Hurricane Katrina, or the Asian tsunamis, or AIDS, or anything else -- fine. Many of those things are worthy and benevolent charitable causes.
But if you claim the right to help anyone with a single nickel that doesn't belong to you, then you are the moral equivalent of a thief. You have no right to help one person by victimizing another person. You have no right to "do good" for one person by doing harm to someone else.
No one has the moral right to exist at his neighbor's expense. One person's "need," real or claimed, does not constitute a moral claim on the lives, time, and property of anyone else. And thus you have no right to impose such a claim on anyone else.
If you disagree -- if you feel the emotional tug of some hapless person's plea for help -- then please address it with your own time and resources. But you have absolutely no ethical entitlement to wield the power of law and impose your "charitable" values upon your neighbors, forcibly enlisting them as slaves in your personal altruistic crusades.
Until that ethical point becomes ingrained in our cultural DNA, "abuses" such as the SBA swindle will continue unabated, and in countless other forms. As long as "charity" is equated with coercively supported parasitism, government slop troughs will never lack for pigs lining up to gobble the "free" goodies -- whether those jockeying for position at the troughs are corporations seeking loans, welfare mothers seeking handouts, farmers seeking crop subsidies, coastal homeowners seeking government flood insurance, students seeking Pell grants, or old people seeking "free" medicine.
But for now, let's all please stop pretending that this entire ugly process of mutual plundering is a measure of our kindness, benevolence, and righteousness. It is, in fact, a measure of our ethical bankruptcy.
Much of what the SBA does is very questionable. I'll limit what I say due to the nature of my career, but the most glaring questionable business practice is direct contract awards to Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) under the SBA 8(a) (small disadvantaged business) program. They seem less disadvantaged than what the standard is and aren't always located in Alaska. There are entire business models that revolve around exploiting this damn thing. When one 8(a) graduates from the program, the key players in the company start another company. It's nearly an exact science by now.
In other words, multi-million dollar contracts do not need to be competed, they can be directly awarded to a company once the price is determined to be fair & reasonable.
That's really all I'm going to say.