Friday, July 30, 2010

Farming Tax Payers...

"As an old pro," Brown acknowledged, "I know that you don't fire someone without at least hearing their side of the story unless you want them gone in the first place." Brown observed that Sherrod had been a thorn in the USDA's side for years, that many had objected to her hiring, and that she had been "operating a community activist organization not unlike ACORN." Although Brown does not go into detail, he alludes to a class action lawsuit against the USDA in which she participated some years ago.

In the way of background, in 1997, a black farmer named Timothy Pigford, joined by four hundred other black farmers, filed a lawsuit against Bill Clinton's Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, claiming that the USDA treated black farmers unfairly in all manner of ways, from price support loans to disaster payments to operating loans. Worse, they charged that the USDA had failed to process any complaints about racial discrimination.

The notion that the Clinton Ag Department had spent four years consciously denying black farmers their due defies everything we know about Clinton's use of race and should have made the media suspicious about Pigford's claims dating back to 1983.

Flush with revenue in 1999 and eager to appease this bedrock constituency, the administration settled with the farmers -- more realistically, their attorneys -- for fifty grand apiece, plus various other perks like tax offsets and loan forgiveness. If any of the presumably racist USDA offenders were punished, that news escaped the media.

After the consent decree was announced, the USDA opened the door to other claimants who had been similarly discriminated against. They expected 2,000 additional claims. They got 22,000 more, roughly 60 percent of whom were approved for this taxpayer-funded Lotto.

Despite having a year and a half to apply, some 70,000 more alleged claimants argued that they not only had been discriminated against, but also had been denied notice of the likely windfall that awaited them.

In 2008, for reasons unknown, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa lobbied to give the alleged 70,000 "another bite at the apple." Co-sponsoring the bill was none other than U.S. Senator Barack Obama. In February of 2010, the Obama administration settled with the aggrieved 70,000 for $1.25 billion that the government did not have to give. This money, by the way, was finessed out of a defense appropriation bill.

-more here






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