Catfish cronyism in Congress

This letter to the editor originally appeared in the Washington Post. It is in response to an earlier article about two catfish inspection offices in the federal government.

The June 14 Food article “Has Congress given blue catfish a free pass?” reminded us that when money is the bait, Washington cannot help but go on a fishing expedition in search of a problem.

Like the introduction of the non-native species that overwhelmed the Chesapeake Bay, the free-flowing, swamp-soaked money that industries pour into Washington is flooding Congress with crony-capitalist solutions that only create more issues, not solve them. Why? Because as politicians are charged with raising millions of dollars for reelection each cycle, they look to interests they oversee to fill their war chests. When lawmakers inevitably reach the conflicting crossroads where public policy and campaign contributions meet, taxpayers and consumers suffer the consequences. Following a long day of fishing, after all, you’re either at the table or on the menu.

Our free-market system relies on innovation, such as transforming an invasive species into the hottest food trend, to solve complex problems. The foolish and wasteful redundancy in the Agriculture Department’s and Food and Drug Administration’s dual fish-inspection services — a handout to Southern catfish farmers who wish to avoid competition — is an archetypal feature of the cronyism that has trapped our economy in murky waters. When government picks winners and losers by repaying campaign contributors, we all pay the price.

William Gray, Deputy Communications Director