Washington is, of course, rife with tales of bureaucratic ineptness, waste, fraud, cronyism… and just plain incompetence. But to capture the true inertia of stupidity that grips our federal government, you need to read this story about the… "national raisin reserve."
In case you aren’t up to date on this essential federal program, the reserve is "a farm program created to solve a problem during the Truman administration, and never turned off."
It works like this: In a given year, the government may decide that farmers are growing more raisins than Americans will want to eat. That would cause supply to outstrip demand. Raisin prices would drop. And raisin farmers might go out of business. To prevent that, the government does something drastic. It takes away a percentage of every farmer's raisins. Often, without paying for them.
Really. And even though this inanity has been going on for more than six decades, we wouldn’t even be talking about if it now if weren’t for one cantankerous – and courageous farmer – who basically said to hell with it.
As you read this account in the Washington Post, keep in mind that these are the folks who are running our agriculture department, education system, energy policy, DOJ, IRS, NSA, and coming soon… our health care:
"In the world of dried fruit, America has no greater outlaw than Marvin Horne, 68. Horne, a raisin farmer, has been breaking the law for 11 solid years. He now owes the U.S. government at least $650,000 in unpaid fines. And 1.2 million pounds of unpaid raisins, roughly equal to his entire harvest for four years.
His crime? Horne defied one of the strangest arms of the federal bureaucracy. He said no to the national raisin reserve…
"I believe in America. And I believe in our Constitution. And I believe that eventually we will be proved right," Horne said recently, sitting in an office next to 20 acres of ripening Thompson grapes
"They took our raisins and didn't pay us for them."
The national raisin reserve … is a real thing - a 64-year-old program that gives the U.S. government a heavy-handed power to interfere with the supply and demand for dried grapes. …
These seized raisins are put into a government-controlled "reserve" and kept off U.S. markets. In theory, that lowers the available supply of raisins and thereby increases the price for farmers’ raisin crops. Or, at least, the part of their crops that the government didn’t just take.
For years, Horne handed over his raisins to the reserve. Then, in 2002, he refused.
But get Horne talking about the national raisin reserve, and the spirit stirs. Suddenly he can’t find a metaphor hairy enough to express his contempt. It’s robbery. It’s socialism. It’s communism. It’s feudalism. It’s . . .
"You have heard of the rape of the Sabine women? This is even worse," Horne said, referencing a legendary mass abduction from Roman mythology. "The rape of the raisin growers."
Worth remembering as you listen to the president caution us about being too cynical about government’s power and competence.