Monday, July 03, 2006

Welfare Statism, (not) working hard

Great article from the Washington Post, drawing attention to one of the most ludicrous parts othe federal budget: farm subsidies.

Money quote:

"I don't agree with the government's policy," said Matthews, who wanted to give the money back but was told it would just go to other landowners. "They give all of this money to landowners who don't even farm, while real farmers can't afford to get started. It's wrong."
On the substance:

Most of the money goes to real farmers who grow crops on their land, but they are under no obligation to grow the crop being subsidized. They can switch to a different crop or raise cattle or even grow a stand of timber -- and still get the government payments. The cash comes with so few restrictions that subdivision developers who buy farmland advertise that homeowners can collect farm subsidies on their new back yards.

The payments now account for nearly half of the nation's expanding agricultural subsidy system, a complex web that has little basis in fairness or efficiency. What began in the 1930s as a limited safety net for working farmers has swollen into a far-flung infrastructure of entitlements that has cost $172 billion over the past decade. In 2005 alone, when pretax farm profits were at a near-record $72 billion, the federal government handed out more than $25 billion in aid, almost 50 percent more than the amount it pays to families receiving welfare.


The farm payments have also altered the landscape and culture of the Farm Belt, pushing up land prices and favoring large, wealthy operators.
This is one of the most scandelous parts of this system. Giant food corps. like Tyson and Riceland Foods collect millions, sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Like Riceland, who has gotten 550 million in the past 10 years.

Money quote #2:
"This was an unintended consequence of the farm bill," said former representative Charles W. Stenholm, the west Texas Democrat who was once the ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee. "Instead of maintaining a rice industry in Texas, we basically contributed to its demise."

"The farm policy we're pursuing now has no rhyme or reason, and we're just sending big checks to big farmers," said Gary Mitchell, now a family farmer in Kansas who was once a top aide to then-Rep. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), the 1996 bill's House sponsor. "They're living off their welfare checks."
Nobody votes like farmers and old people:
"The strength of the farm lobby in this town is really unbelievable," Armey said. "I don't think there's a smaller group of constituents that has a bigger influence."
Read the whole thing. Houses sold based on the 'free government money', massive property tax breaks, etc. etc.

The program also looks to have given hundreds of thousands to a Republican (and Bush) donor in Houston. Just some pointless mean-spirited snark ;-). And to keep it by-partisan, as far as I can tell, this program is a lot Daschle's fault. One more reason he's a loser and has no business running in 2008.


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