Saturday, November 17, 2007

We Should not Subsidize Factory Farms

Nor, Try to Save Family Farms

Congress is again debating a Farm Bill, or as the Wall Street Journal calls it, the No Farmer left Behind Bill. While there is something in it for everyone, the big farmer however, gets the most with two-thirds of the aid going to the wealthiest 10% of farms. With the average full-time farmer having an income of $81,420 last year, don’t think of the Farm bill as help to the depression-era subsistence farmer.

So why do we subsidize farmers?

We, the consumer get cheaper food, right? Well, no, not exactly. The farm price supports are actually designed to keep food prices high. So in addition to the taxes we pay to subsidize farmers, we collectively pay about $12 billion more a year for food than we otherwise would.

Well, we are preserving a way of life? We are keeping the family farm alive? Well, to a certain extend, you could argue that some family farmers benefit from the bill. I think protecting the Family Farm however is the job of Willie Nelson, not the tax payers. (See Farm Aid) Why should this segment of the population get protection from the demands of the market place? Year by year, farm productivity increases; it takes fewer people to produce more food. Why try to keep them on the farm? Why should I pay more taxes so some kid in the country can grow up milking a cow? We don’t preserve the life-style of the buggy whip maker or the Ma and Pa grocery store owner, so why farmers?

Farm aid helps provide a rich variety of farm produce? There is something in the bill for everyone, so there are subsidies for vegetable, fruit and nut growers, but 80% of the money goes to subsidize five commercial crops: corn, cotton, rice, soybeans and wheat. Have you ever noticed that corn syrup is in almost every product you buy? Read your product labels. From dog food to Wheat Thins to peanut butter, many products contain corn syrup. It is hard to find a product without it. Peanut butter does not need corn syrup. With an obesity problem in America, we don’t need to be adding calories to everything we consume, yet we subsidize the production of corn, so there is a surplus of cheap corn syrup.

Well, we produce a lot of surplus food and help feed the hungry of the world? America does provide a lot of commodities to foreign countries. (Food for Peace) However, if would be less costly to directly fund aid agencies and let the agencies purchase the food in the market place. And while we are generous with our surplus food, some of the food aid we provide is sold by aid agencies, which undermines the farmers in the country we are tying to help and keeps the country from becoming self sufficient. (See, As U.S. Food Dollars Buy Less…) Also, by subsidizing American farmers we are putting the farmers of all poor third-world countries at a disadvantage. Our farm policy is protectionism for American agriculture which actually contributes to world poverty.

The farm bill taxes us to make food cost more, to enrich the already rich factory farmer, to keep some family farmers on the farm when the marketplace says they are not needed, to make third world peasant farmers poorer, to produce and abundance of corn syrup we don’t need, and to undermine America’s leadership on Free Trade. So why do we subsidize farmers? It is politics. As Rep. Sanford Bishop, a Georgia Democrat who refers to himself as "the peanut congressman," said recently, "That's what politics is: Who gets what, when and how," (See, Farm Aid Pork) Earlier this year he amended an Iraq appropriations bill to include $74 million for storage of peanuts. He said he would have done it even if peanut growers had not given his most recent reelection campaign $35,750.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

by Thomas Friedman

In the wake of 9/11, some of us pleaded for a “patriot tax” on gasoline of $1 or more a gallon to diminish the transfers of wealth we were making to the very countries who were indirectly financing the ideologies of intolerance that were killing Americans and in order to spur innovation in energy efficiency by U.S. manufacturers.

But no, George Bush and Dick Cheney had a better idea. And the Democrats went along for the ride. (To continue, Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda)

My Comment: Following 9/11 the American people were ready to sacrifice. Bush could have used his political capital after 9/11 to pass an energy tax, instead he squandered a historic opportunity and today we continue to transfer American wealth to Islamic depots and to other autocratic regimes in unstable parts of the world. In addition to the national security logic of reducing dependence on oil, a serious response to global warming requires we reduce our consumption of oil. We had a historic opportunity to break our oil addiction following 9/11. It is not too late. The national security threat and the global warming threat warrant a radically new energy policy. It is a shame we have no one in either party willing to lead. Rod

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bush Sought "Way" to Invade Iraq, Says O'Neill

If you missed the recent 60 Minutes program with a segment about former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and his revelations about the innner workings of the Bush Administration, it is worth following this link (60 Minutes) and watching.

A new book called The Price of Loyalty has just been published that draws on interviews with several high ranking officials who gave the author their personal accounts of their experience within the Bush Administration. Paul O’Neill was the most forth coming of those interviewed for the book, not only sharing his insight but giving the authors thousands on internal Bush administration documents.

O’Neill seems appalled at the way Bush conducted the business of running the country and he has some very interesting things to say. He says that in cabinet meetings the President was "like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people.” “There was no discernible connection," forcing top officials to act "on little more than hunches about what the president might think." O’Neill says that the president did not make decisions in a methodical way and there was no free-flow of ideas or open debate.

Most interesting is O’Neill report of Bush’s obsession with Iraq from the very first National Security meeting. O’Neil recalls that during the campaign, candidate Bush had criticized the Clinton-Gore Administration for being too interventionist, but that from day one Bush was planning an invasions of Iraq. “From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” says O’Neill. He says that going after Saddam was topic "A" 10 days after the inauguration, eight months before Sept. 11. “From the very first instance, it was about Iraq. It was about what we can do to change this regime,” "It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying ‘Go find me a way to do this,’

I don’t guess Mr. O’Neill’s revelations should surprise any of us by this point, but they offer insight in to just what a poor leader Bush really is and offer further confirmations that the decision to invade Iraq was already made before Bush ever got elected and Bush was not to be deterred. Bush was going to have his war with Iraq no matter what.

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