Corporate Welfare

Paul Ryan Suggests Cutting Corporate Welfare For Farmers


Is that a cash-coated corn stalk in your yard or are you just happy to subsidize me?

Cato's Sallie James looks at how Ryan's budget would treat farmers on the dole:

After outlining the ways that farming America is doing well, Ryan's plan would cut almost $30 billion (or 20 percent of projected outlays) over the next 10 years from farm subsidies (direct payments, currently costing about $5 billion per year) and crop insurance subsidies. Cuts will also reportedly fall on nutrition and conservation programs, but I will let my colleagues weigh in on those.

The focus on crop insurance is encouraging, because crop insurance is an increasingly important part of U.S. farm policy, especially in recent years when commodity prices have been high: high prices reduce the amount of money taxpayers spend on commodity payments, but increases crop insurance premiums, which we all subsidize. They now cost about $6 billion, or more than commodity payments.  And, as the blueprint points out, surely farmers "should assume the same kind of responsibility for assuming risk that other businesses do." Well played, Congressman.

Republicans have historically been less than excited about the prospect of cutting welfare for farmers, so Ryan's budget is at least a small step forward for the GOP, especially since he frames it the right way: as an end to a form of corporate welfare. But it's only a small step. As James points out, the head of the House Agricultural Committee, which oversees handouts to farmers, has given Ryan's plan a dismissive we'll-take-it-under-advisement, telling Reuters that the plan's farm policy ideas "are just suggestions." 

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  1. Everything about farm subsidies is unimaginable stupid. Bad for the environment, corporate welfare, misallocation of resources, doesn’t make food cheap. Stupid.

    1. Good for politicians though, particularly ones who have ambitions for running in an Iowa primary for the big job (which is most of them unfortunately).

    2. Some subsidies counteract other subsidies. For example, you can get a subsidy for letting grass grow or one for grazing to the ground.

  2. Well it’s a good start, but along way to go…

  3. We can’t end crop subsidies! Paying farmers not to grow food allows them to charge more for what they grow! Who cares that that means food prices are artificially high? That doesn’t matter. Farmers need to get paid. If they weren’t subsidized then the ones who aren’t efficient enough to grow food at what it should cost would have to find other work while the efficient ones took over. Then we would all enjoy cheaper food and have more money for other things. The horror! Imagine poor people being able to buy cheaper food? We can’t have that!

  4. Alt-text improvement.

  5. Oh you ungrateful lot! If it weren’t for farmers, where would you be? They toil from sun up to sun down to make the land produce for you! We should all be thanking farmers…at least that’s what Monsanto’s ad campaign told me. /sarcasm

    1. Link for those who must. Thank a farmer

  6. the head of the House Agricultural Committee, which oversees handouts to farmers, has given Ryan’s plan a dismissive we’ll-take-it-under-advisement, telling Reuters that the plan’s farm policy ideas “are just suggestions.”

    Eat a bag of dicks. Hey, it’s just a suggestion. Asshole.

  7. Peter, a request: whenever you post something written by Sallie James, could you also post video of her reading her article. Just because that really helps us visual learners…

  8. Liberals should join libertarians in supporting cuts in AG subsidies. They are always bitching about things like HFCS in everything, subsidies play a big role in that. Additionally the vast majority go to big companies.

    Sadly I think a big reason why Obama will oppose them is he is one of the first Democrats in years to have Iowa in play…

    1. He also supported them when a Senator; then the excuse was that he was from Illinois.

      Most Republicans are bad on farm subsidies; for some reason, most Democrats are even worse. There’s a few (urban) Democrats who are good on farm subsidies, but most of those who are good are farm subsidies are Republicans.

      There’s enough bipartisan support for farm subsidies that they’re really, really hard to cut.

      The farm subsidy supporters in the last bill bought off the liberals by promising to throw money at food stamps and previously unsubsidized but beloved by liberals crops like California fruits and vegetables.

    2. There’s about zero chance of really cutting farm subsidies unless liberals actually join to cut them, instead of being bought off like in the last farm bill. So hopefully it will happen, but history is not that positive.

      1. Getting rid of the gigantic presidential primary block of time and especially getting rid of the first one being in Iowa, would be even better. (I know they’re caucuses, not primaries; distinctions w/o differences, IMHO.) Absolutely no reason that it should take so friggin’ long to pick a candidate for president. The candidates don’t have to ride trains and clipper ships anymore to get from one coast to the other.

        Many of the party leaders have delusions of getting into the White House someday, so anything that might screw with that fantasy is going to get short shrift. Ergo, farm subsidies are probably here to stay.

        1. The candidates don’t have to ride trains and clipper ships anymore to get from one coast to the other.

          Do we really need the candidates traveling around anymore anyway, even though we have much faster conveyances now?

          Seems all they do on the campaign trail is lie/promise-more-than-they-can-ever-hope-to-achieve/whatever anyway, meanwhile all the information you need to actually decide if you want to vote for them is just a few google searches away.

          1. Seems all they do on the campaign trail is lie/promise-more-than-they-can-ever-hope-to-achieve/whatever anyway.

            Since the beginning of Time, This has been pretty much the main job of every politician, elected or running for office. It’s part of the political process and trying to stop it is like trying to stop a shark from eating meat. I don’t have a problem with them meeting with potential constituents, making speeches, impressing voters with their height and perfect hair, whatever. And I don’t have a problem with giving the voters a small amount of time to get familiar with the candidates and make a decision.

            What I do have a problem with is how long the process takes, and how certain states, by seemingly Divine Mandate, get to be the gatekeepers for acceptable candidates. That needs to stop. Why can’t primary season take three weeks or less, with all 50 on the same day? The news media will bitch about the change, because it deprives them of the reality-show material that is a campaign, but who cares? Judging by how well they vetted Obama, they aren’t really doing their jobs anyway.

        2. Getting rid of the gigantic presidential primary block of time and especially getting rid of the first one being in Iowa, would be even better.

          No, it would have no difference. Farm subsidies are politically popular; changing the timing or the structure would make no difference.

          McCain went to Iowa and spoke against farm subsidies (people said he had an ethanol “flip-flop” because he gave a speech saying “I’m still against subsidies for ethanol, but maybe it will make sense on its own merits when oil is over $100/barrel”).

          Exactly how many people, anywhere, would consider voting for Obama but voted for McCain because, darn it, they just hate ag subsidies?

          Now how many farmers might lean more towards McCain but vote for Obama because of the tens of thousands per year that they get from farm subsidies?

          That’s your problem.

          1. It isn’t a Red V. Blue thing. It’s more of an intra-Red, intra-Blue thing. McCain spoke out against subsidies, true, and it cost him in Iowa. He placed 4th in ’08, with 13%, behind Huckabee with 34%, Mittens with 25%, and Thompson who had a few hundred more votes. For a candidate without McCain’s recognition, it probably would’ve done him in as a contender.

            And Iowa kept on giving, when Obama beat McCain by nearly 10 points. Granted, Iowa usually went Blue (the only exception was W in ’04, by less than a point.), but it’s usually a lot closer. A candidate without a lot of other capital isn’t going to risk ending their campaign before it begins by an initial poor showing. Which means not advocating cutting a significant revenue stream to Iowa’s influential voters.

            Again, it’s not a Red vs Blue thing; it’s that no state should have the power to so constrain the primary pool of candidates by forcing all of them to kiss up to its pet issue.

            1. Yes, it’s not a Red v. Blue thing. But you still way overestimate the importance of Iowa.

              As President Obama has shown, politicians lie all the time about their intended policies during the primary and campaign. They change policies all the time in office.

              Why hasn’t Obama said “screw you” to the corn ethanol folks and the subsidized farmers the way he has to, say, the antiwar types? It’s not like he’s going to lose the Dem nomination in ’12 by doing so.

              The answer is that farm subsidies are politically popular. A surprisingly depressing number of people who aren’t even farmers favor them (see Bryan Caplan’s research), but even aside from that, the standard public choice analysis follows. People who oppose them simply don’t vote on the basis of disliking farm subsidies. People who benefit from them, however, do vote on the basis of their gravy train.

      2. It’s always seemed to me that the politically possible way to cut farm subsidies would be to cap them at a figure that seems generous to the average voter: say, $70,000/year per farmer. That would (IIRC) hugely reduce the total amount paid out, “protect the small farmer” (I know, but that’s what they say), while depriving the corporations and wealthy farmers. I want to see politicians try to claim that farmers “need” more federal money per year than the average voter makes.

        1. Politically possible, yes, but prepare to see tremendous numbers of shell corporations, paper owners, and various accounting tricks to get around that as soon as it’s adopted, just like “bundling” political donations.

          1. Then you crack down on that. Plus, I doubt that the giant corporations that now get millions would be setting up scores or hundreds of fronts to continue to get the money.

            1. Plus, I doubt that the giant corporations that now get millions would be setting up scores or hundreds of fronts to continue to get the money.

              Sorry, but this strikes me as remarkably naive about rent-seeking behavior when millions of dollars per year are at stake.

    3. Most of the lefties I knew at my hippie commune college (correctly) hated ag subsidies for their effect on third world farms.

    4. Re: MNG,

      Liberals should join libertarians in supporting cuts in AG subsidies.

      But not other subsidies (Medicare, Welfare, SS.) I mean, we don’t have to start being logically consistent now, do we???

      1. Eh, MNG is better than most liberals in saying that those entitlements should maybe be restricted to keeping people from being poor instead of maintaining the upper middle class in the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed.

        Unfortunately, too many liberals are like Tony, attacking Ryan, Bowles-Simpson, and libertarians for supposedly starving the poor and elderly, when the plans really preserve benefits for the poor and elderly and cut the middle and upper middle class.

  9. Sadly I think a big reason why Obama will oppose them is he is one of the first Democrats in years to have Iowa in play… he is a weak-kneed spineless unprincipled slimy lying sleazebag politician


    1. Is there any other kind?

  10. Imagine poor people being able to buy cheaper food?

    They’re too fat now, you heartless bastard. We must starve them, in their own best interest.

    1. Not only are they too fat, it is a direct result of the subsidies. The policies encourage monoculture, esp. wheat and soy and corn. This translates to refined flour, soybean oil, cornstarch, and corn syrup–all of it is bad for you, esp. when (as with many poor people) this is what most of your diet is made of.

      1. This line of argument is a dead end with most liberals, though. Had one the other month tell me (unbidden) that “I’m all for farm subsidies, I don’t think they should be cut at all, I just think that the money should be redirected to healthy things like fruits and vegetables.”

  11. Liberals should join libertarians in supporting cuts in AG subsidies.

    Hahahaha. Actually, Mister Union Hall Talking Points (an acquaintance) is vehemently opposed to farm subsidies, but only, so far as I can tell, because farmers are not unionized. Either that, or a farmer touched him inappropriately.

  12. If we can just get Willie Nelson really well-baked for a good long time he could do enough Farm Aid concerts to replace the subsidies.


    1. Need to legalize-it for that perpetual-motion-machine to work.

  13. Funny sorta-relevant article in NYT

    “Rush to Use Crops as Fuel Raises Food Prices and Hunger Fears…..ssava.html

    The level of stupid in the comments section is too awesome.

    Basically, everyone has some version of “Greedy capitalists/Corporashuns/wall st speculators” as the explanation for everything, but no one blames politicians or corn producers.

    I think one person might have made the connection about Iowa and Presidential elections… but no one seemed to notice.

    My favorites are the people sincerely calling for mass-die-offs of human beings so that ‘nature’s balance’ can be restored.

    I also especially like this particular insight into global agro-economic issues=

    April 7th, 2011
    11:25 am

    As far as I know a huge part of our agriculture production is subsidized, so what is the problem if food prices increase to the point in which we do not have to subsidize our farmers. That will be good for our tax payers. The idea that the Africans cannot take advantage of bio-fuel production is biased. Bio-fuels are a great opportunity to develop Africa and Latin America which have more sun light than us. Lets put it clear many developing nations have more sun light that US, they do not have food not because they not able to produce it. They do not have food because they do not have the money to buy it. The farmers in Africa need to be integrated to the global economy and the production of bio-fuels is a good way for them to earn some money and tob get out of poverty. They have good land and a lot of sun light, so they are the onces with the highest potential to take advantage of a biomass economy, let’s help them to develop their industry. They do not need our food, they need our technology and access to our bio-fuel marked!

    “More sun light”

    Well, at least this helps understand part of the evironmental/agricultural debate… a certain percentage are freaking *retarded* to the point of zero-sum-economics/zero-sum-food&sunlight; convergence…

    He’s probably a congressional aide.

    Despite this, I think the guy probably was *better off* than many of the neo-malthusians & socialist eco-tards; at least he said, “integrate the third world into the global economy”.

    I mean that at least *sounds* sensible (even though he’s clearly not the brightest puppy in the litter)… I mean, its good people can arrive at reasonable ideas – even via the path of Partial Brain Death.

    I also thought the guy who said, “The Government Needs to Subsidize… Waste” was inadvertantly a kind of genius. I was like, “oh, trust me… it’s top of their list”

    I also got a special kick out of the “Unapologetically Amoral/Nationalist/ Narcissist & Poorly-Informed Urban Environmentalist” example =

    Montreal Quebec
    April 7th,
    201112:33 pm

    The real issue here is national interests; are we in the West, allowed to use our organic materials that we grow as we see fit?

    As far as I can see, we are being held hostage by the 3rd world, in which millions of people live or starve on 20 cent swings in grain prices. Why do we in the West, trying to get away from un-sustainable fossil fuel burning, and switching to organic production, have to cowtow to hunger demands in those countries??? Why cant they produce their own food? Why is it our responsibility to make sure the gains of the ‘green revolution’ in the 50s and 60s stay just for food-stocks??

    So we should just keep on burning Middle East oil and gas because we cannot use our own organic products in ways we choose? For fear of starving the third-world? This is so preposterous I don’t even know where to begin.

    GO GREEN! GO BIOFUELS! GO ELECTRIC CARS! Go BICYLES! GO URBAN LIVING– Stefan, the car-free urbanist living in Montreal Island

    I mean, I think I get his argument = Progression towards “green” living in the West may to some degree necessitate the deaths of millions of people in the 3rd world bacause of their selfish over-reliance on our exporting of our agricultural surplus… and frankly, the cost is worth it because… uhm, fuck, cause organic food, electric cars and hemp shoes are *cool*? DUH?!!

  14. Why does anybody think electric cars are green?

    This baffles me.

    Rickshaws are green. If they are made entirely of bamboo, anyway.

    1. Rickshaws are green. If they are made entirely of bamboo, anyway.

      Eh, even then….if all of our transportation needs were filled by human-drawn methods, can you imagine how many people that would require, and by association all the food they would have to consume, and all the shit they would produce. Basically, the same as the argument against horses. Using heterotrophic organisms as power-plants just isn’t as efficient as machines expressly designed for that purpose.

  15. ps- Mister Union Hall Talking Points apparently thinks all money currently being spent on farm subsidies should be redirected to free unlimited health care for retired unionized teachers; in other words, him.

  16. to sign bill aimed at luring people to rural Kansas

    Read more:…..z1IrSRDJYy

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