I showed this video to my senior econ. class this week. They were unanimously appalled by farm subsidies, which is both incredible and inspiring because a healthy percentage of them are farmers themselves.
Just a couple of notes of clarification, the farm bill was authorized for 288 Billion over 5 years, the video made it sound like it was 300 Billion all at once. The farm bill does provide a great deal of subsidies, but also includes nutrition programs, research, conservation programs, etc… The farm bill isn’t just subsidies, if it were, it would have a hard time passing congress.
I grew up on a farm, mostly beef cattle. We stopped grain farming in the early 90’s because the economics wouldn’t work for us, even with the subsidies, and switched to a straight livestock operation. Another note, livestock producers don’t receive direct subsidy payments, but if you believe that subsidies artificially lower commodity prices, then you could make an argument that livestock producers benefit from the farm program. (Wool as an exception.) I think my family found a creative solution that did not involve government.
In my small town, I had 26 classmates in Kindergarten, almost all farm families. I graduated with 13. When I was young, the typical farm in my area was around 750 acres, now, nobody farms less than 2000. Would this change have happened if subsidies were dropped? Hard to tell, but farm subsidies sure didn’t help my small town survive.
One last note, the farm bill accounts for less than 2% of the federal budget (55 billion/yr out of about 3 trillion(yes I’m including SS and medicare outlays)), yet appears to provide about 25% of federal spending heartburn to the libertarian crowd. (Smiley face).
Actually I get heartburn over about 85% of the federal budget…
The reasons farm subsidies get people fired up are many. One, its a direct wealth transfer…take from large group A to give to small group B. Steal from the rich to give to the very rich? Thats how most people see farm subsidies. Second, it indirectly harms everybody by driving up food costs. Why should a waitress in New Jersey have to work to give money to farmers in Nebraska and then still pay more for food in order to feed her family? As a corollary to that, its an extremely inefficient allocation of resources. Third, some subsidies go to people who don’t need it (such as the super rich guy in the video) or to people who aren’t even freaking farmers! A school teach in West Virginia has to work to pay a homeowner in Nebraska simply because the homeowner owns land that might have at one time been a farm?
Its the obvious unfairness of the subsidies the gets people mad.
And its not like theres no demand for food. There is and always will be a large demand for food. If a farm can’t survive on its own, given that demand for its product is certain, then its doing something wrong. If it can’t work it out, then it needs to close, and its owners and workers need to move on to other things, so that another farm can provide the supply demanded.
What wasn’t explored very much in the video however, was the perverse effects on the greater economy that subsidies have. Not only does it drive up the price of subsidized foods, making it harder for consumers to buy such foods, it hurts the other farmers who are not receiving subsidies. Non subsidized farmers are at a big disadvantage since they don’t get that extra help. This makes it harder for those farmers to compete and survive, even if they would have been succesful in the absence of subsidies.
But, subsides deliver (buy?) votes. And thats really what matters…
the friendly grizzly |
October 26th, 2008 at 7:55 am
I have no viewed the film, but presume it discusses just the direct programs like price supports and checks handed out.
What about that farm subsidy that parades behind the camouflage of “reducing our dependence on foreign oil” and “slowing of global warming”? I refer of course to the program that reduces fuel mileage, costs more in energy to make than it provides, and stuffs more money in Bob Dole’s pocket. The adulteration of motor fuels with ethanol is nothing but another farm program.
Subsidized grains in the US also keep farmers in developing nations from selling in a balanced world market, thus requiring more taxpayer money to be sent overseas in the form of monetary aid, or food aid bought in the US at inflated subsidized/supported prices.
It is a cycle of co-dependancy that makes Mother/Father Federal Government indispensable to human existence.
I am not surprised of SJL’s comment. Really. She’s ensconced in Congress. Her district includes Houston inner city, in the 18th’s odd jerrymandered doughnut shape, and she’ll never leave barring an appointment to a different office. She rides the racial issues like a surfer, and loves to travel to other countries to tell them how to run their business. She’s a yankee lawyer carbetbagger and will never leave :(
Libertarian Mac |
October 26th, 2008 at 3:16 pm
Paid to not grow food. Sheesh! I grew some tomatos in my yard this year. Am I eligible for this program? How about subsidizing my grocery bill?
“Nothing is as permanent as a temporary government program.”
Linda Morgan |
October 26th, 2008 at 6:40 pm
One last note, the farm bill accounts for less than 2% of the federal budget (55 billion/yr out of about 3 trillion(yes I’m including SS and medicare outlays)
Where did you learn that? Even –especially — after Stossel’s report, I find it amazing that a whole 2% of the federal budget is sloshed out so heedlessly and ineffectively in the situations he describes.
Are the payouts justified as offsets to property tax burdens? That would translate into federal taxpayers subsidizing the local governments of agricultural communities. If so, the proceeds don’t appear to be “reinvested” in those small towns, at least not those dwindling towns shown in the report.
Linda Morgan |
October 26th, 2008 at 6:44 pm
Excuse me, my “a whole 2%” above should be “anything close to 2%” — point being, 1-2 percent of the whole blang budget is serious money.
Brandon Bowers |
October 26th, 2008 at 11:21 pm
Why should income redistribution get any less attention because it’s on a small scale relative to other forms of government theft?
(From Catch-22)…His specialty was alfalfa, and he made a good thing out of not growing any. The government paid him well for every bushel of alfalfa he did not grow. The more alfalfa he did not grow, the more money the government gave him, and he spent every penny he didn’t earn on new land to increase the amount of alfalfa he did not produce. Major Major’s father worked without rest at not growing alfalfa. On long winter evenings he remained indoors and did not mend harness, and he sprang out of bed at the crack of noon every day just to make certain that the chores would not be done. He invested in land wisely and soon was not growing more alfalfa than any other man in the county.
An accounting of government bloat with enough humor to keep you from going crazy is Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway.
The attitude of the lawmakers in the video are exactly why we are in this situation. They take our money, spread it around to get votes, rinse and repeat.
The founding fathers almost got it right, they needed this article (we’ll call it article 0) in the Constitution:
No person, once elected to any public office in these United States, shall serve more than 12 total years in any public service position, or in any job where association with public officials is a main duty. In other words, people should serve their country and then go back to making watches or newspapers of whatever it is they did before. This article may not be amended, and amendments to this Constitution shall not take precedence over it.
This really does not leave room for going from town council to state senate to governor/US senate to President, but so what, the whole point is that we should be choosing our leaders from the community, not from a roll of career politicians. It also precludes the V.P of a two term President to serve two terms, again, probably a good thing….
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