Muskegon ferry loan shouldn't be granted

The following letter was published in the Muskegon Chronicle on June 8, 2003.

The Maritime Administration (MARAD) in Washington is considering putting every U.S. taxpayer on the hook to provide a federal loan guarantee to a Wisconsin company for a new cross-lake ferry service.

Some Muskegon area officials who should know better have their hands out for whatever they can get at everyone's expense. One was quoted in the May 24 Muskegon Chronicle, arguing that the proposed subsidy would boost local tourism and that "we would applaud any assistance on the part of state and federal government to bring about this project."

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Translated into honest English, those comments really mean this: "We don't care that it's wrong to subsidize a for-profit Wisconsin company owned by a very wealthy Milwaukee family to compete with a taxpaying, unsubsidized Michigan business based in Ludington. We don't care about MARAD's recent track record in sticking taxpayers with millions of dollars of federally backed loans gone bad. We don't care that the federal government has run up trillions in debt already or that it has a whopping $300 billion deficit this year alone. We just want whatever we can get and we don't care where it comes from."

Whatever happened to standing up for the principle of what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong? The only principle exhibited in this instance is the shallow notion that it's right if it makes some of us feel good. If the unsubsidized ferry service were based in Muskegon and the Wisconsin company were attempting to get a subsidy to locate one in Ludington, does anyone doubt that the same "principled" official who supports a federal handout now would be on the other side of the issue?

If someone robbed Fort Knox and spent all of his loot in Muskegon, would we assume for a second that the local economic stimulus somehow justifies the crime in any way? A beggar-thy-neighbor grab for discriminatory favors from government is not genuine economic development It's short-sighted, irresponsible and parochial. And it's precisely the sort of thing, multiplied by countless other claims on the treasury, that has inflicted on this country the highest tax and debt burdens in its entire history.

Lawrence W. Reed, President
Mackinac Center for Public Policy
140 W. Main
P.0. Box 568

More information on the attempt to gain subsidies for a private car ferry service: