you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows

You may have heard this elsewhere by now, but Pennsylvania Senator Richard Santorum recently introduced legislation that would see the output of the National Weather Service, something that has for years been given away freely, channeled directly to a for-profit company that could then sell the information for whatever prices the market would bear. It’s something that I find reprehensible, especially as the corporation in question financially supports Santorum, but I wasn’t planning on writing about it, as so much else has been going on in Washington that even more deserves my scorn, wrath and ridicule… So, I wasn’t going to mention it, but then my dad forwarded along the following Letter To the Editor, written by our mutual friend, Mike Busche, a bankruptcy attorney whose office I once re-roofed. As it says everything I would have said, while requiring absolutely no work on my part, I thought that I’d re-post it in its entirety:

To the Editor:

Richard Santorum, Senator from neighboring Pennsylvania and one of the most powerful Republican leaders in the Senate, seeks to privatize the output of the National Weather Service. Since the time of the Civil war, the NWS has provided weather information it gathers to the public free of charge. Santorum would change that.

Senator Santorum has introduced legislation in Congress that would prohibit the NWS from providing weather information to the public. Instead, the NWS would provide the free information only to private weather services. They in turn would sell the information to us, the taxpayers who already paid to gather it.

This is an example of the “conservative” and “free enterprise” system envisaged by the neocons now running this country. Here’s how it works: Private weather companies like Accu Weather contribute money to Santorum and the Republican Party. These leaders in turn arrange for the American Taxpayer to pay for the government to collect weather data and to turn it over to these same private weather companies — free of charge. The companies in turn charge taxpayers for access to the data. This may be sweet deal, but is it “free enterprise”?

In fact this is the way things are done in Washington today. The government creates a monopoly or uses our money to fund an industry — then those who cash in claim they are the epitome of free enterprise. Radio and television stations rail against regulations they claim restrict their rights to run a business, while that business exists only because the government enforces their monopoly over bandwidth. Cable companies assert their free enterprise right to charge whatever they choose while relying on the monopoly of governmental franchises wherever they operate. Agricultural corporations who make a profit because they are subsided by the taxpayer don’t want to be told what to do. The same pharmaceutical companies that were guaranteed a taxpayer subsidized market in the name of senior citizen drug benefits nevertheless decry any attempt to regulate against price abuses. And so it goes.

Using taxpayer money to promote the benefit of special interests is not new. But seldom is it more obvious or blatant than Senator Santorum’s proposal. Is it possible that Senator Santorum will recognize his hypocrisy when he gives his next speech lauding the sanctity of the free enterprise system? I doubt it. The neocons are very good at spin. I think they even fool themselves.

Michael Busche

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