Three cheers for the New York Times
Actually, three cheers for Sharon LaFraniere who had the guts to write a big time story and to her Times’ editors who had the guts to run it. The story is one of fraud, fear, and the general idiocy that’s come to characterize the federal government, as epitomized by the current Administration. As such, LaFraniere provides a long-form story; yes, there’s much to tell.
Also present: massive lawyers’ fees, sidestepping the Congress, and a pathetic failure of stewardship. It’s all a cash-based form of Obamaphone, for “discriminated-against farmers,” writ large, real or imagined.
And the documentary requirement to get paid by the government in the case was set quite low: nothing.
John C. Coffee Jr., a Columbia Law School professor and specialist in complex litigation, said that not requiring documentary evidence “was quite unusual, but there were also special circumstances.”
Still, he said, “I don’t think they realized how much of an incentive they were creating for claims to multiply. It is a little bit like putting out milk for a kitten.
“The next night, you get 15 kittens.”
The kittens at the milk-pan analogy is… kind.
“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.”
Yet the bigger question is this: are the conditions described in the article an exception to the rule of government or do they rather reflect the rule itself?
The Clinton Administration had the issue basically put to bed: just 91 claimants were to receive $50K each for a total payout of less than $4.5 million. By the time it got to the Obama Administration, it had grown a thousand times, exploding into a $4.4 billion handout.
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.
In Maple Hill, a struggling town in southeastern North Carolina, the number of people paid was nearly four times the total number of farms.
And the money line, so to speak?
“Basically, it was a rip-off of the American taxpayers.”
Disgraceful. Criminal. Disgusting. Normal.
Demand better, America.