Saturday, May 24, 2014

Intermediaries to the Government

One of the growth industries over my life time has been in this area, organizations which mediate in some way between the citizen and the government.

The example I remember most vividly was the CED in Sherman county, KS telling me he wanted to put a consulting firm out of business; the firm was advising farmers on payment limitation issues.  Then there was our visit to Fresno county, CA (BTW the biggest ag county in the country) where one operation had a full-time employee just working as a liaison to the ASCS, FmHA, and SCS offices, plus Bureau of Reclamation.  (Irrigation was a big issue, because the federal rules limited the acreage to 960 acres, so navigating between payment limitation and irrigation was complex.)

I thought of those experiences when I saw this,a Vox piece on a firm mediating between students or their parents and the Education Department (charging $80 to fill out an application which is online).

As for lobbyists, whom we more normally think of when discussing intermediaries, today's Times has a piece on the lobbyist firm Patton, Boggs, which is merging with an international law firm.  Someone quoted in the article said that when the firm was founded in the 1960's, there were about 15 decision makers in government to influence, now there's 15,000.   And yesterday Elon Musk, who has a rocket firm, accused his competitor of hiring a former Air Force official as part of a deal to get a sole-source contract for rockets for the military. 

A conservative like George Will would say this is a reflection of the bad trend to more government; government has its hands in too much and citizens can't deal.  As a liberal I resist that idea.  I'm more comfortable with the idea that big mouths and scam artists fool the naive citizen and con them out of their money.  However, it's an issue--I really should give it more thought, but maybe in my next reincarnation.

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