by Dan Mitchell
Posted Aug 23rd 2011 at 1:01 pm
As a grumpy libertarian, I routinely get agitated about taxes, spending, and regulation. As far as I’m concerned, much of government is a racket that uses coercion to reward interest groups with unearned wealth.
But there are degrees of evil. So if you asked me to pick the most reprehensible thing that government does, “asset forfeiture” might be in second place (hurting poor people to benefit rich people is at the top of my list).
Asset forfeiture occurs when government seizes property that is associated with a crime. That sounds reasonable – and it is reasonable if someone is convicted of, say, bank robbery and the government confiscates the stolen cash and any loot purchased with that money.
But it is not reasonable (or moral, or just, or appropriate) when government seizes assets without a conviction. And it is downright disgusting when the government steals (and I use that word deliberately) the assets of innocent parties.
I’ve already written about this issue (including an example from my county) and highlighted how asset forfeiture gives government bureaucracies a perverse incentive to steal.
Now we have a story from the Wall Street Journal that confirms our worst fears.
Posted Jul 9th 2010 at 11:01 am
The Hill revealed yesterday that Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and three other Chicago Democrats have written a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner, asking him to release $70 million in federal TARP funds to bail out ShoreBank. ShoreBank’s political patrons have made Geithner their number one target, ever since the Treasury balked on supporting one of the most brazenly corrupt bailouts of the past several years.
Bill Brandt, chairman of the Illinois Finance Authority (IFA), launched the first attack last month: “It’s now clearer than ever to me that while [Geithner]’s happy to have these people clean his apartment and those of his cronies on Wall Street, he’s not comfortable with them getting mortgages for their homes.” Ironically, the IFA itself declined to bail out ShoreBank when Schakowsky’s overtures to the State of Illinois were exposed.
The corrupt Shorebank bailout has pitted one faction of the left against another. On the one side are those like Geithner, who are starting to wake up to the grim economic reality that bailouts and corruption have imposed on our nation. On the other side are those like Schakowsky, who are determined to borrow, spend, and tax our nation into penury in order to chase their radical ideals and reward their political cronies.
The dividing line between the two factions is not based on ideology, but circumstance: those with actual responsibilities are the ones getting cold feet. Even Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) was prepared to allow an investigation of ShoreBank and other bailouts into the financial regulation bill, until that amendment was killed in Senate negotiations at the last moment by those determined to cover up the role of the White House in the affair.
Schakowsky and other Chicago politicians who have lobbied for the ShoreBank bailout claim they are acting on behalf of a bank that serves needy communities. What they refuse to explain is why ShoreBank is the only community development bank they have campaigned and lobbied for, out of all the community development financial institutions in America that would be eligible for the $1 billion set aside within TARP for their benefit.