USDA Gets a Real Clod

Some of George W.'s appointees are so ugly you wouldn't pull them behind a John Deere with 30 feet of rope. But the ugliest yet might be the man Bush just snuck into the ag department as our new undersecretary for rural development.

Start with the fact that as head of a large corporate farm in Iowa, Thomas Dorr was slipperier than an Enron executive. He rigged his books so he could get around the legal limits on federal farm payments, which allowed him to grab more crop subsidies from us taxpayers than he was entitled to receive. Twice, including this year, he got caught and was forced to return thousands of dollars to the government. Dorr just shrugs off his unethical conniving, saying he has "no idea if it's legal" and telling senators at his confirmation hearing that even if illegal it's ok, because "I have known many, many farmers who have done that over the years." Maybe, but they probably don't expect to get a top government appointment.

While Dorr loves federal farm money so much he'll cheat to get it, he hates the idea that any of his tax dollars might go to help other rural people. Three years ago, he sent a hot letter to Senator Tom Harkin denouncing a small tax that helps extend Internet service to rural areas, saying that "subsidy games" had turned Iowa into a "state of peasants." Odd attitude for a guy who wants a government job to administer programs that help the rural poor.

Speaking of attitudes, he once made the unfortunate comment that three Iowa counties were enjoying economic progress because of their homogeneity -- meaning white and Christian. Dorr also doesn't like small, as in small farmers. He says that 200,000-acre factory farms fit his vision of what agriculture should be.

This is Jim Hightower saying ... This guy should not be in the U.S. agriculture department, and he wouldn't be, since the Senate would not have confirmed such an obtuse clod. But, in August, George W. Bush made Dorr a recess appointment, sneaking him into office while the Senate was out of town.


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