Saturday, February 8, 2014

2014 Farm Bill

Past student Amanda Wayman wrote me an email saying, "A couple of days ago and again this morning I read that they've finally passed the new farm bill. I was just wondering if you've seen it and what you think about it? You should add your opinion of this to your blog!"

Go past the jump for my take on it....
Farm subsidies are pretty clearly bad for everyone involved but the farmer: taxpayer dollars go to "farmers" (in quotes because many people claim to farm that don't actually do so) as agricultural areas have an outsized say in Congress. The most recent bill seems to cut back subsidies to some extent, turning them into highly subsidized crop insurance and price supports, but as the piece notes, groups concerned with minimizing government waste are still crying foul. The Washington Post points out some of the ways "farmers" will likely continue to milk the system.

At the same time, this bill hacks a big chunk out of the food stamp program. I haven't read a lot on this subject so excuse my ignorance, but I really don't know why people are opposed to food stamps. Yes, there is some degree to which having food provided by the government provides a nominal disincentive to work, but really? Are there a lot of people who are feeling like life is good if they do nothing but wait for food stamps? The Washington Post had an article in December about a family dealing with cuts in benefits, and that made me see things from their side. However, some criticized the article as meeting stereotypes about welfare recipients. That last article notes that at least two members of Congress grew up in households that once received benefits. I would add that your professor is another person on that list: my parents received benefits for maybe a year or so when they were young and my dad was going to school while my mom stayed home with my sister and me. Cutting holes in the social safety net sure isn't something I support! 

The Farm Bill in general has historically been an exercise in pork rolling, and it seems like that hasn't changed. It's too bad that people interested in cutting the budget can't cut welfare to people making upwards of $900,000 but they can go after the needy. That's our government, ladies and gentlemen.

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