Georgy Zhukov was Marshal of the Soviet Union during World War II when his Allied counterpart, Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower, introduced him to Coca-Cola.
He loved the drink, but since the Soviet Union was a country built on ideological fanaticism, he was not well seen sipping an emblematic product of American capitalism. So Zhukov, as so many ideologues do, decided that the rules were for the peasants and gave himself an exemption. He requested and received, with the help of President Harry S. Truman, a clear version of Coca-Cola that was bottled to resemble vodka, allowing him to drink the refreshing soft drink while the Soviet proletariat stood in lines of bread.
I was thinking about this story while reading about P3 loans taken out by an ideological fanatic in North Dakota. Representative Rick Becker is a Bismarck-based plastic surgeon and the founder of the North Dakota Legislature Bastiat caucus. He spends most of his time portraying himself as a model of limited governmental virtue. He describes himself as “a rising national star of the freedom movement” and has built a little cult of personality around him on the assumption that he and his fellow travelers are the true conservatives and that not everyone is than a fixer.
As Zhukov receiving his Coke, Becker took out loans from the Paycheque Protection Program launched by the federal government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
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According to a federal database, loan # 4709707009 was granted in April 2020 to Becker Plastic Surgery LLC in Bismarck, North Dakota. The amount was $ 42,700 and it would have helped keep five jobs.
Loan # 4673847002 was issued in April 2020 to Ricky C. Becker MD. The amount was $ 20,800 and he would have kept a job. Presumably Becker’s.
Loan # 4714697002 was issued in April 2020 to Humpback Sally’s LLC, a hotel company for which Becker is the registered agent (he owns a few bars and restaurants in Bismarck). The amount was $ 110,700 and he would have kept 25 jobs. Current status is refunded or forgiven.
A second loan, # 5834808407 was made to Humpback Sallay’s LLC in February 2021. The amount was $ 80,373 and it is an outstanding loan. It would have helped retain 12 employees.
According to the New York Times, as of August, around 80% of P3 loans granted in 2020 had been canceled by the federal government. It is not clear from the federal database whether Becker’s completed loans have been canceled or repaid.
For what it’s worth, the eligibility criteria for PPP loan cancellation are pretty… lenient.
There is nothing wrong with getting a PPP loan, I have to note that at this point.
Millions of Americans have received them.
I’m glad Becker found help for him and his employees.
There is something wrong, however, with an ideological fanatic who spends most of his time throwing rhetorical stones at people he deems insufficiently conservative to secure hundreds of thousands of dollars in government loans.
To illustrate this hypocrisy, consider that for next week’s special session, Representative Becker introduced a bill that would use state tax incentives as leverage against companies implementing vaccine mandates for employees or customers.
“A person cannot claim any state or local tax incentive or tax exemption (…) if the person requires, or at any time during the required taxable period, that his employee, independent contractor, customer or any other recipient of goods or services to be vaccinated against COVID-19 ”, indicates his bill.
Becker, who has taken out government loans for himself and his business, seeks to use tax incentives as a tool to manipulate the way private business owners run their private businesses.
I wonder how he would feel if a legislator proposed a bill that would use his receipt from a P3 loan to, for example, require that he and his employees be vaccinated?
It is also not the first time that Becker’s personal actions have failed to live up to his public beliefs.
Becker was first elected in 2012. He is on the sponsorship committee of a voting measure that aims to limit the cumulative time anyone can hold a legislative seat to a maximum of eight years. If the measure passes, however, all the time Becker has already spent in the House would not count against him. The clock would start when the measure was enacted, which would give him, potentially, another eight years in office beyond what he has already served.
Rules for you, but not for me.
Coca-Cola for the Soviet elite, and bread for the proletarians.
We can have a debate about whether Becker’s doctrinal approach to public policy is right for North Dakota. It is simply old politics.
What is clear, however, is that Becker is not that consistent in his ideology. Especially, it seems, when it comes to his private interests. This is not something voters should accept from their elected leaders.
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Rob Port, Founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Contact him on Twitter at @robport or by email at [email protected]