Megan McArdle says the judge seems to have dreaded only Type A and not Type B error when it comes to compensating discriminated-against farmers, and quotes more from the great Times piece:
“It was the craziest thing I have ever seen,” one former high-ranking department official said. “We had applications for kids who were 4 or 5 years old. We had cases where every single member of the family applied.” The official added, “You couldn’t have designed it worse if you had tried.” …
Accusations of unfair treatment could be checked against department files if claimants had previously received loans. But four-fifths of successful claimants had never done so. For them, “there was no way to refute what they said,” said Sandy Grammer, a former program analyst from Indiana who reviewed claims for three years. “Basically, it was a rip-off of the American taxpayers.” …
In 16 ZIP codes in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and North Carolina, the number of successful claimants exceeded the total number of farms operated by people of any race in 1997, the year the lawsuit was filed. Those applicants received nearly $100 million.
At Prawfsblawg, Paul Horwitz notes that legal scholars active in areas like reparations and discrimination law have up to now said little or nothing about the high quantum of fraud in the much-publicized Pigford settlements and asks (perhaps a bit rhetorically?) whether they will soon be taking note of the “public interest graft” revealed in the Times piece. And Hans Bader wonders whether the Obama administration might have avoided going down the embarrassing settlement route had it taken more seriously the Supreme Court’s 2001 decision in Alexander v. Sandoval. More: Ted Frank, Point of Law; Daniel Foster, NRO. Joel Pollak: “Even the Kinko’s guy knows about Pigford.” Earlier here, etc.
Land use regulations “seem to be the bane of their existence.” Shouldn’t they perhaps draw a wider lesson? [Prof. Bainbridge]
P.S. “Also their bane includes the estate tax and attempts in DC to repeal LIFO accounting” [@sggunase]
Max Boot, who has written a new book on the history of guerrilla movements, tells how Shamil, firebrand leader of a celebrated 19th-century Muslim insurgency in Chechnya and Dagestan, began to lose the allegiance of “many ordinary villagers who balked at his demands for annual tax payments amounting to 12 percent of their harvest.” Instead, they switched their allegiance instead to the rival Russian czar, whose demands were more modest.
Compare the pending case of Horne v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, where, as my Cato colleague Ilya Shapiro explains,
the USDA imposed on the Hornes (long-time California raisin farmers Marvin and Laura Horne) a “marketing order” demanding that they turn over 47% of their crop without compensation. The order — a much-criticized New Deal relic — forces raisin “handlers” to reserve a certain percentage of their crop “for the account” of the government-backed Raisin Administrative Committee, enabling the government to control the supply and price of raisins on the market. The RAC then either sells the raisins or simply gives them away to noncompetitive markets—such as federal agencies, charities, and foreign governments—with the proceeds going toward the RAC’s administration costs.
The U.S. government denies that it owes anything to the Hornes under the Takings Clause, and also says that to contest the legality of what has been done to them, the Hornes are obliged to pay the USDA what it demands — $438,000 for the raisins not handed over, plus $200,000 or so in penalties — and then sue in the Court of Federal Claims to get it back. The Supreme Court has granted certiorari and will hear oral argument March 20.
A federal energy mandate takes its toll on bystanders:
Now that the United States is using 40 percent of its crop to make biofuel, it is not surprising that tortilla prices have doubled in Guatemala, which imports nearly half of its corn.
In a country where most families must spend about two thirds of their income on food, ‘the average Guatemalan is now hungrier because of biofuel development.’ … Roughly 50 percent of the nation’s children are chronically malnourished, the fourth-highest rate in the world, according to the United Nations.
[New York Times via Bader]
The head of the ASPCA writes to the New York Post about my op-ed piece. To recap the particular assertion to which he’s responding, if you want to support local shelter and rescue work, you’re much better off giving locally than you are writing a check to this national group and hoping a little trickles down through grants, special projects and the like.
Another reaction: Andy Vance, Farm Progress.
After decades, farmers in western Canada are finally free to decide for themselves how and to whom to sell their crop, the result of a long political campaign led by free-market prime minister Stephen Harper with key help from Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall. I’ve got a new, celebratory post at Cato giving details. Next: getting our own Supreme Court to reconsider Wickard v. Filburn, the decision that laid out a charter for federal supervision of wheat growing and so much else besides? [Name screwup fixed now]
P.S. Milk still a big problem (although the U.S. is hardly free of cartel-like regulations in that sphere).
Restaurants’ dodges to get around the new California foie gras ban. [Chris Morran, Consumerist via Alkon] Earlier here, etc.
SFGate has details here and here. More on California’s crise de foie: earlier, Ann Althouse, more.
As I relate in a post at Cato at Liberty, the Obama Labor Department has withdrawn a far-reaching proposal that would have banned much or most work done by kids on farms, even work for their own family members (a narrow exemption would have remained in cases where parents were the sole owners of a farmstead). The proposals drew a huge outcry from rural America (earlier here and here).
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation (PDF),
For approximately a decade, activists have attempted to pass legislation amending the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to restrict the ability of youth under the age of 16 to work in agriculture. The legislation has never been scheduled for a vote or even a hearing, and the DOL-proposed rule change is [was] apparently an effort to restrict youth employment in agriculture through regulation.
If it seems impossibly extreme to forbid 15-year-olds from feeding chickens at a neighboring farm owned by their aunt, be aware that many groups organized around the fine-sounding mission of ending “child labor” would like to institute bans that go even further. For example, an NGO by the name of Global March Against Child Labor (represented in Washington, D.C. here) supported the DoL rules and declares itself “of the view that child labour in agriculture should not be allowed in any part of the world and in any form- whether as family labour or as hired labour.”
P.S. For more pro-ban sentiment, see this piece by AP labor correspondent Sam Hananel stenographizing the views of groups like Human Rights Watch.
Creative application #95,724 of international human rights law: maybe it turns out to ban U.S.-style factory farming. Activists are urging the Derbyshire county council in England to deny planning permission to a large hog facility on the grounds that it violates local residents’ protected right to private and family life [Guardian]