Port: Rep. Rick Becker, critic of big government, won't answer questions about his government loans
Were those loans paid back? Were they forgiven? Will potential buyers for Becker's bars have to take on responsibility for the still-active loan? The public deserves to know, and not just because Becker is a public servant, but because he is a politician who has been prolific in his criticisms of economic interventions by the government.
MINOT, N.D. — Rep. Rick Becker, a Republican from Bismarck, is the strident ideological martinet who founded the Bastiat Caucus, a rump caucus of inveterate reactionaries whose governing agenda is whatever is being ranted about on the Fox News primetime lineup in a given news cycle.
Becker and his acolytes are fond of attacking other Republicans for the perceived sins of not being conservative. To hear them tell it, they are the torchbearers for conservatism in North Dakota. It's on them to root out those who aren't ideologically pure.
(That many of these unserious men and women also worship Donald Trump, a rank spendthrift whose profligate administration was rooted in big government authoritarianism, is an irony that shouldn't be lost on us.)
Given Becker's posturing as a latter-day saint of the small-government movement, it's relevant that he accepted more than a quarter of a million dollars in government loans through the federal Paycheck Protection Program.
I detailed the loans, which total more than $254,000 , in a previous column. Becker took out more than $63,000 in loans for his plastic surgery practice, including a $20,800 loan to protect his job, specifically. He also took out two loans, totaling $191,073, for his hospitality businesses.
It's these last loans that are relevant for this column today.
According to a report in the Bismarck Tribune , Becker is selling his bars.
Given this news, it seems to me the public deserves to know the status of the publicly financed loans this public servant received.
Unfortunately, Becker doesn't seem willing to talk about these loans publicly. Last week I attempted to contact him multiple times through emails to his official legislative account as well text messages to his cellphone. All of my inquiries went unanswered.
According to public disclosures, at least one of Becker's PPP loans — an $80,373 loan to the bar businesses — is still active. The others are marked as either paid back or forgiven.
Were those loans paid back? Were they forgiven, and turned into a de facto gift from the taxpayers to Becker's bottom line?
Will potential buyers for Becker's bars have to take on responsibility for the still-active loan?
The public deserves to know, and not just because Becker is a public servant, but because he is a politician who has been prolific in his criticisms of economic interventions by the government.
Becker's entire public persona, his political stock-in-trade, is built upon opposition to big government.
Is there anything more "big government" than the government giving people money through forgiven loans?
I think there is a conservative argument to be made in favor of PPP loans. The COVID-19 pandemic was an emergent situation. The government was ordering businesses to shut down their operations to protect against the spread of the virus. In such unusual circumstances forgivable loans to businesses, aimed at keeping people employed so they didn't have to go on some other form of government assistance, made a lot of sense.
But it's not my place to make that argument for Becker.
He should make it for himself.
At the very least, he owes the taxpayers an explanation for how he used their money.
Maybe Becker doesn't want to make that explanation to me. I'm a critic, after all, with little use for Becker and his inch-deep culture warrior routine. But avoiding critics isn't a good look for any elected official, generally, and Becker could certainly come clean about these loans in any public medium he chooses.
The public deserves better.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org .