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Yes, Slash Farm Subsidies But Don't Stop There
Townhall.com ^ | November 25, 2012 | Jeff Jacoby

Posted on 11/26/2012 10:41:33 AM PST by Kaslin

THANKSGIVING IS behind us. The fiscal "cliff" looms ahead. And in less than six weeks, Massachusetts will have a new senator. Let's try to link them all in a single column.

As a candidate for the US Senate, Elizabeth Warren showed a livelier interest in raising federal revenues than in cutting government spending. But about one spending target the senator-elect has been admirably blunt. When asked to name some items in the federal budget she'd like to see slashed, the first program she cites is one of the most indefensible: agriculture subsidies.

To be sure, it's easier to oppose welfare for agribusiness when you represent Massachusetts, which ranks 44thamong the 50 states in federal farm payments, and where only 7.7 percent of local farms collect subsidies. But that doesn't alter the fact that farm subsidies are egregiously bad policy in every way, and Warren will deserve hearty bipartisan applause if she leads a serious effort to eliminate them.

According to the Environmental Working Group, agriculture subsidies have robbed taxpayers of more than $275 billion over the past six years. Like most corporate welfare, farm programs redistribute wealth upward. In congressional testimony last June, Cato Institute analysts Chris Edwards and Tad DeHaven pointed out that the average income of farm households was $84,400 in 2010, or 25 percent higher than the average income earned by all US households that year. Moreover, the great majority of American farms (62 percent) collect no subsidies at all. Nearly 75 percent of government payments go to just 10 percent of all farm businesses.

For years critics have pointed out glaring problems with the government's farm program: The tens of millions of dollars paid annually to recipients who are millionaires. The more than $1.1 billion disbursed to people who were dead – in many cases, dead for years. The damage inflicted on the environment, and on farmers in poor nations.

Then there are the lavish "farm" subsidies shelled out to owners of land not used for farming at all. In some communities, ABC News reported in 2008, real-estate agents were using the prospect of agriculture payments as a lure to entice home buyers. "Do you have to farm … to receive it?" one woman was shown asking a realtor during a home showing. "No, no, no, no," the agent assures her. "It's like a little bonus that you don't really have to do anything to get."

US agriculture doesn't require tax dollars to flourish. The proof was on your Thanksgiving table – and in the grocery where you stocked up before the feast. Most varieties of food grown in America aren't subsidized, as ABC's reported noted. There's no apple subsidy, no banana subsidy, no subsidy for carrots or lemons or lettuce. Yet walk into any supermarket and you can find all of them in abundance.

The case against farm subsidies is clear and compelling. Most Americans rightly oppose them, and Warren rightly calls for ending them. Granted, that wouldn't make more than a small dent in the $1 trillion annual deficits Washington has been running. But it would make a good start. And wiping out all the other corporate welfare in the federal budget – the equally indefensible subsidies for high-speech rail and alternative energy, for automakers and broadband networks, for small business and mortgage lending, for export promotion and shipbuilding – would make an even better one.

Yet earnest talk about cutting the budget never seems to lead to earnest budget-cutting. Every subsidy has its vocal defenders, every taxpayer has his favorite subsidies, and no matter how much evidence piles up to the contrary, Americans continue to believe that government spending is essentially virtuous. No political truth seems harder to bear in mind than this one: Every dollar the government gives to X is a dollar the government must take from Y. Yet no political truth is more ironclad.

We are beguiled by what political scientist James Payne calls the "philanthropic illusion" -- the idea that the government has money to bestow on needy people and worthy causes. It doesn't. Washington is not a source of wealth, and its subsidies are not largesse.

It is heartening that Massachusetts' senator-elect can brush aside the philanthropic illusion when it comes to crop supports. Here's hoping she comes to see that what is true of Washington's farm programs is true of every budget item: Government can only help some by hurting others.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Government
KEYWORDS: agriculture; elizabethwarren; farmsubsidies; subsidies

1 posted on 11/26/2012 10:41:38 AM PST by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin

If she really had a pair she’d be willing to eliminate Pell Grants to those who go to Ivy League schools. Each of them have more than enough endowment funds to completely fund expenses for deserving students who are poor.


2 posted on 11/26/2012 11:31:48 AM PST by LRoggy (Peter's Son's Business)
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To: Kaslin

Farm subsidies are a democrate bait and switch for votes before they increase the death and corporate taxes and drag all the assets to the government. When asking for help from a single source, this what one gets, totally being owned by that source.

It only takes one Human Resource person to make hell for a whole company’s workers, and usualy that is where union bosses sit.


3 posted on 11/26/2012 11:48:35 AM PST by JudgemAll (Democrats Fed. job-security Whorocracy & hate:hypocrites must be gay like us or be tested/crucified)
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To: Kaslin
Let's throw the farmers off the fiscal cliff first.

Who shall we throw off second?

4 posted on 11/26/2012 12:26:15 PM PST by William Tell
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To: Kaslin

I hope she includes ethanol subsidies and sugar price supports.

I hope she’d add “green energy” loans to the pile too.

All corporate subsidies have to go


5 posted on 11/26/2012 12:28:20 PM PST by GeronL (http://asspos.blogspot.com)
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To: Kaslin

I support farm subsidies.

Agribusiness used to be considered a military sensitive industry, because you need to be able to feed your own army.

We’re idiots if we start buying all our food from china too.

Raise the trade tariffs. Protect most of our industries, especially food.


6 posted on 11/26/2012 2:42:41 PM PST by DannyTN
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To: DannyTN
I support farm subsidies.

Agribusiness used to be considered a military sensitive industry, because you need to be able to feed your own army.
How does paying people who own farmland to not grow food help create an abundance of food? Farm subsidies subsidize high food prices.

Now, I know you'll say, "If food is too cheap, then farmers won't produce it since it won't be profitable." That may have been true in the 1930s, but today farmers have financial instruments to partially shield them from price fluctuations in their products.

If you still support farm subsidies, would you be willing to gradually phase out the federal program, and allow states to decide whether it's economically beneficial to continue agricultural subsidies?
7 posted on 11/26/2012 3:24:31 PM PST by conservativefreak
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To: Kaslin

I know some of those millionaires who get checks every year. But to hear them tell it, they’re all broke. And they’re response is always “Get rid of subsidies and bread will cost $5 a loaf.” I got a feeling that’s going to happen before long anyway.


8 posted on 11/26/2012 4:24:29 PM PST by Terry Mross (I haven't watched the news since the election. Someone ping me if anything big happens.)
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To: DannyTN

I suggest you study economics and how trade works before advocating big-government anti-capitalist programs to protect special interests.


9 posted on 11/27/2012 5:36:16 AM PST by LifeComesFirst (http://rw-rebirth.blogspot.com/)
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To: DannyTN

I suggest you study economics and how trade works before advocating big-government anti-capitalist programs to protect special interests.


10 posted on 11/27/2012 5:36:16 AM PST by LifeComesFirst (http://rw-rebirth.blogspot.com/)
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To: LifeComesFirst
I have studied Economics at the Graduate Level. I suggest you study something more advanced than Econ 101. Maybe a good place for you to start is here.

Why Free Trade Doesn't Work There's some great excerpts from that book that will dispell some of the myths propagated by the Cato institute.

11 posted on 11/28/2012 11:27:35 AM PST by DannyTN
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To: LifeComesFirst
And before you call trade barriers "big government anti-capitalist programs" you need to consider that the founding fathers put trade barriers in place and they stayed there through most of our history.

You're the one dumping the advice of the Founding Fathers.

American industry is a special interest worth protecting from foreign and communist countries.

Ronald Reagon promoted Free Trade but also was quick to whip other countries into line and forced Japan and others to produce here in America.

12 posted on 11/28/2012 11:30:34 AM PST by DannyTN
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