Monday, December 17, 2007

Farming for Taxpayer Dollars

“So what is it about farm bills that turns Republicans into socialists and Democrats into defenders of welfare for the rich?” —WSJ Editorial Board (see article)

The last time the GOP controlled Congress passed a farm bill — five years ago — it was nothing more than a debacle of socialist policy that favored the wealthy over the middle and lower class. Now a Democratically controlled Congress is poised to pull the same trick, as they prepare to pass a bloated $290 billion bill that will funnel loads of cash to the likes of 562 residents of Manhattan and two university marching bands.

The WSJ Editors note, “About 65 cents of every farm payment dollar goes to the wealthiest 10% of farmers.” But then they also note that many of these “farmers” aren’t farmers at all. Some of them own farms, but the subsidies they receive actually drive up rent for their tenants that do the farming.

President Bush, imbued with the power of a lame duck president with an opposition party Congress, has promised to veto the bill. Some, including members of Congress that stand to score a combined total of $6 million in subsidies from the bill, are calling the promised veto “immoral.” Perhaps they should save their moralizing for the guy in the mirror.

Our semi-decadal farm bills came about as a way to help the little guy farmer make ends meet. But these subsidies did not stop market forces. Automation and modernization of agriculture have increased yield and decreased need for manual labor. What started out as transfer payments to small-time farmers has turned into taxpayer funding of the wealthy. And it’s big business on the political end. That’s why Congress, regardless of which party is in control, can’t bring itself to significantly reduce or eliminate these subsidies. And this Congress, in particular, seems to pride itself in repeatedly passing useless bills that cannot survive a presidential veto.

Maybe an unpopular lame duck president with an opposition party controlling Congress isn’t all that bad.

3 comments:

Frank Staheli said...

Those dirty little secrets about welfare. If the support went to those who really need it, it wouldn't be nearly as bad. But that probably was never the point of most of those who make such laws.

Jesse Harris said...

I don't think I know a single individual (liberal, conservative or otherwise) who thinks that farm subsidies are a Good Thing(TM). I'm left aghast that, year after year, we continue to pass out these subsidies like party favors.

David said...

Jesse,

You don't live in the Midwest - there are people out there who really think farm subsidies are a Good Thing. THen again, some of the strongest opponents of the farm subsidies are farmers from the Midwest. (Senator Lugar of Indiana for example)

I think we all agree here that this ought to stop.