Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Lobbyist Gravy Train

The Washington Post has an excellent article today on what it calls the quiet break for corporations. These are temporary suspensions of tariffs that benefit a specific company or product. This is absolutely nauseating:

"Each legislative season, corporate executives and lobbyists quietly draft hundreds of bills to suspend tariffs. Over time, the changes cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue, a Washington Post analysis of U.S. trade data found.

Most of the tariff suspensions involve obscure chemicals and dyes, but many other products show up, including boilers for nuclear reactors, green peanuts, child potty seats, unicycles -- even chocolate coatings for laxatives.

"It's become sort of a lobbyists' dream," said Jim Schollaert, a former State Department trade specialist who now represents domestic manufacturers. "It's a gravy train, and there's little work to it."

The bills in Congress generally give no hint of whom the suspensions have been designed to benefit and sometimes refer to the products only by strings of numbers linked to phone-book-size tariff tables. But many corporate names can be found in reports on the legislation produced for Congress by the U.S. International Trade Commission."