Here is a fine example of our oligarchy at work: lobbyists and interest groups and their craven allies are making a concerted effort to financially benefit themselves at the cost of poor people who are literally starving.
The Obama administration is making a fuss because of changes that the Senate is trying to make to a bill about foreign aid. Current rules say that half of U.S. food aid has to be shipped on U.S. vessels. This is meant to financially benefit U.S. shipping interests. Now, a new provision stuck into a bill wants to raise that percentage. From the New York Times:
At the Obama administration's request, Congress lowered the amount of food aid that had to be shipped on American vessels in 2012 over the objections of the shipping industry, which lobbied for the provision that is now included in the Coast Guard bill. Previously, three-quarters of food aid had to be shipped on American ships.
So what's the problem? The problem is, as the administration is now loudly pointing out, forcing the food to be shipped on U.S. vessels means that it cannot by law be shipped on the most cost effective ships. They say that will eat up about $75 million a year from USAID—money that would have been spent providing food to starving people overseas. The director of USAID warns that this could hurt food delivery for as many as 2 million people. The special interests groups involved in this effort could not care less. From the Wall Street Journal:
"If you're going to use public resources to engage in humanitarian aid, you should do so while maximizing the use of U.S. industries and to create good jobs in this country," said Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department at the AFL-CIO, the nation's biggest labor federation.
Here you have a man explicitly saying that he would rather see (a small portion of) $75 million go into the pockets of his union members even if it means millions of people starving to death in the world's neediest places. What an utter motherfucker. He is doing no favors to the cause of unions in America. But perhaps the best quote from this whole thing comes from a politician, who doesn't even believe that food aid is meant to save people from being hungry:
"The secondary reason for food aid is food," Rep. Duncan Hunter, the California Republican who introduced the bill, said in an interview Thursday. "The No. 1 reason is military readiness."
Alrighty. Nice little country we're running here.