Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Landed Oligarchy

Some habits die hard. In the Middle Ages, the landed aristocracy used their ownership of one of the principal factors of production to control prices, rob the poor, manipulate politics, and enrich themselves. The 2008 farm subsidy bill would extend this lofty tradition of avarice for another half-decade.

The Wall Street Journal profiles some of the bill's egregious measures:
The House and Senate are now ironing out differences between their bills, and it's all but certain that farmers will get about $26 billion over the next five years in subsidies. Soybean and wheat farmers are slated to receive higher price supports, though bean prices hit a 34-year high last year and wheat prices have soared to a new record...

There's also a new $5.1 billion emergency "trust fund" for farmers, with almost all the money directed to Georgia, Minnesota, North Dakota and Texas. New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg predicts that "if a large wind comes up and blows a mailbox over in North Dakota, it's going to be declared an emergency because somebody's going to want to get their hands on that billion dollars." Credit for that one goes to self-styled "deficit hawk" Kent Conrad, the free-spending North Dakota Democrat...

Congress has also spurned the Bush Administration's sensible proposal to establish a $200,000 income ceiling in order to receive subsidies. Instead, full-time farmers will be able to earn up to $1 million per farm ($2 million for a married couple) and still be eligible for a USDA handout.
Can the Democratic Congress follow Bush's lead and end welfare for some of the very rich? Will Republican legislators realize how great a betrayal of their stated principles this is?

This is an issue on which all taxpayers - Republicans, Democrats, and others - can write our representatives demanding they oppose this flagrant giveaway of public money.


Carol L. Douglas said...

Are those income caps gross or net? If gross, Bush's cap is way too low; if net it's just about right.

Chops said...

I'm not sure, but I see no reason to subsidize farmers over and above regular welfare programs.

Carol L. Douglas said...

I'm a hard core fiscal conservative but I must disagree with you here. We have a national security interest in maintaining an agricultural base. It can't be rebuilt quickly so it must be maintained despite the shifting forces of the marketplace. Certain other industries require or required that kind of protection and don't have it--steel, for example.

Economics can't be read independently of history and I'm old enough (world's oldest living woman) to remember the part natural resources and industry played in the second world war.