Over the last six years, I’ve been watching Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) very closely. Back in 2008, Chambliss faced a tough challenge in a three-way, finding himself in a runoff against Jim Martin, a liberal Democrat.
Part of the problem was campaign organization. Insider Advantage quoted an unidentified Republican who said that Chambliss and company had the organization of a “bad state House race,” calling it a “embarrassing campaign.” There was also the perception of Chambliss among Georgia Republicans. Insider Advantage again quoted a unidentified Republican who said, “Saxby’s reputation is that he’s spent six years in Washington playing golf. He’s gone on lots of trips. He hasn’t done the down-and-dirty constituent work.”
“Saxby bragged about it his first four years – how much golf he was getting in. It was a real problem and it irked a lot of people,” said the unnamed Republican source. Many Republicans in the state were less than thrilled with Chambliss, who hadn’t been able to endear himself to the state party the way Sen. Johnny Isakson had.
Another issue that hurt Chambliss was that he had lost the support of many fiscal conservatives in Georgia because of his votes that put taxpayers at risk.
In 2012, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) spent $22 billion on subsidy programs for farmers. Introduced in the 1930s to help struggling small family farms, the subsidies now routinely draw condemnation from both left and right as wasteful corporate welfare. While the number of farms is down 70 percent since the 1930s—only 2 percent of Americans are directly engaged in farming—farmers aren’t necessarily struggling anymore. In 2010, the average farm household earned $84,400, up 9.4 percent from 2009 and about 25 percent more than the average household income nationwide.
What’s more, a handful of farmers reap most of the benefits from the subsidies: Wheat, corn, soybeans, rice, and cotton have always taken the lion’s share of the feds’ largesse. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) reports that “since 1995, just 10 percent of subsidized farms—the largest and wealthiest operations—have raked in 74 percent of all subsidy payments. 62 percent of farms in the United States did not collect subsidy payments.”
That is completely wasteful spending right there, something we could drop immediately and wouldn’t be hurt for it. In fact, repealing agricultural subsidies would have a very beneficial effect on the poorest of Americans:
All over the nation, people are “occupying” various cities and destinations. They’re angry over a lot of things, but one thing that I agree with them on is bailouts of banks. Many in the occupy movement argue correctly that taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be used to make the wealthy even wealthier.
Of course, I would love to get their take on this tidbit:
Wealthy celebrities including Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Quincy Jones and Ted Turner have received federal subsidies, according to “Subsidies of the Rich and Famous,” a new report from the office of Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified several individuals receiving farm payments “whose professions had nothing to do with farming or agricultur[e],” says the report. These individuals include real-estate developer Maurice Wilder, a “part-owner of a professional sports franchise [who] received total of more than $200,000 in farm program payments in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006.”
The report also says millionaires Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen and Ted Turner have collected farm subsidies.
“These individuals include Scottie Pippen and Ted Turner, respectively. Millionaires also receive state tax breaks on farm land. For example, Jon Bon Jovi paid property taxes of only $100 last year on his extensive real estate holdings in New Jersey that he uses to raise bees. At the same time, Bruce Springsteen received farm subsidies because he leases his property to an organic farmer,” the report explains.
With the federal budget an absolute wreck, maybe it’s time for the government to ignore Harry Truman for a moment and pass the buck. Almost literally.
The left typically argues that an act is moral. The right often argues that the same act is unconstitutional. However, we can’t pay for it regardless. So why not pass these programs back to the states to handle. Let individual states determine of they want to pay for farm subsidies that pay up to $40,000 per year whether a farmer grows a crop or not. Let the states determine if they want to pay for someone to sit and home and crank out kids. Let the states make that determination.
If these programs are so morally right, they will continue on. Some states won’t, but then we’ll have comparisons as to whether they work or not. The answers will finally be clear and the nation can move on. Yes, proponents of various measures will have to battle in 50 assemblies, rather than just one, but grass roots organizations don’t seem to have a problem with that to much.
The constitutional argument becomes null and void since state constitutions are generally easy to amend. A simple vote and POOF! New amendment. Will there be battles over that? Absolutely. However, things shouldn’t change without a fight. All sides need to be discussed ad naseum so that people have an idea what they’re in for.
By moving much of this to the state level, states can determine if they need a given program and, if so, perhaps target it better. Not only that, but people who disagree with a programs vehemently enough can always relocate to another state. It’s not easy to find another country. However, those who leave a state will also make it clear how they feel about the results of those programs and the taxes that accompany them.
Personally, I think it’s worth a try.
In an ad in major papers on Thursday, the Cato Institute criticized both Democrats and Republicans in Congress for their lack of leadership in cutting the massive budget deficits that threaten the prosperity of the United States. While the $33 billion in proposed cuts are being touted as the largest spending cut in history (and that’s not true), they represent less than one percent of spending this year.
The ad suggests billions in proposed spending cuts that Congress could enact, including eliminating farm subsidies, repealing Obama and reforming Social Security.
Here is a great editorial out of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on why the tea party movement should turn its it attention toward farm subsidies:
The stakes really are not very large, about $15 billion to $20 billion per year for the U.S. as a whole. Some $10 billion to $15 billion is in cash payments to farmers, including land rental under the Conservation Reserve Program. Another $5 billion or more goes into subsidized crop insurance.
For Minnesota, direct payments in 2009 came to $852 million, of which $114 million was for CRP acres. Overall, our state came fifth in national rankings. Neighboring states also placed high, with Iowa second, North Dakota sixth, South Dakota ninth and Wisconsin 11th.
Murray County in southwest Minnesota, where I grew up and own farmland, got $15 million, a typical amount for the uniform rectangular counties across the southern part of the state.
These sound like big sums, but relative to total cash flows in farming, especially with growth in Asia propelling crop prices higher, they no longer are that important. The tragedy is that relative to the cost to the Treasury, they do little good for anyone.
Compared with an annual budget deficit of $1 trillion, $15 billion or $20 billion saved by complete elimination of farm payments is a drop in the bucket. But so are many other programs dear to the heart of one interest group or another.
That is the point. If the tea party adherents in the new Congress are not able to completely chop out entire programs like this, their movement will quickly become a debacle, economically and politically. Committed tea party members will be bitterly disappointed by the realities of Washington, just as true believers in Supply Side economics like Reagan Budget Director David Stockman were back in 1982.
Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln is down 20 points in the polls, but the Democrat is apparently going to go down swinging—with $1.5 billion of your money. She is the spending problem, in profile.
Last year heavy rain damaged cotton and rice crops across the South. The 2008 farm bill, passed by a Democratic Congress, created the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE) to aid farmers hit by such weather-related disasters. The admirable intent was to stop farm-state Senators from looting the Treasury after every early frost or the like. To qualify for SURE funds, farmers are now required to buy crop insurance (federally subsidized to the tune of about $6 billion a year) and to have lost more than 30% of their crop value.
Mrs. Lincoln wants to pull an end run around this law and make Arkansas farmers eligible for retroactive taxpayer payments. The payments would be made even if the recipients didn’t buy crop insurance and even if their damages were as little as 5%. Most small businesses in America suffered far more than a 5% fall in revenues during the recession, but few are getting six-figure handouts from Uncle Sam. Rice and cotton prices have recovered nicely this year in any event.