Sunday, May 18, 2008


During boom in crop prices, lawmakers harvest subsidies [m]

GOOD MORNING FLINT! BY Terry Bankert 5/19/08
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Farm subsidies have long been America's largest corporate welfare program. Rather than help small, struggling family farmers, the majority of subsidies go to commercial farmers, who report an average income of $200,000 and a net worth of nearly $2 million. [m]

THESE PROGRESSIVES THAT CLAIM TO BE THE MORAL COMPASS FOR AMERICAN DEMOCRATS ARE TALKING OUT OF BOTH SIDES OF THEIR MOUTHS. IT WILL TAKE A LIBERAL TO SET THIS RIGHT Let's hear no more from Democrats that they're on the side of the poor and opposed to big business. The farm bill passed by Congress loaded $40 billion onto nutrition programs for the poor to the benefit of America's wealthy farmers.[b]

INTERNATIONAL ACADEMIC KNOW OUR LEADERS FOR THE HYPOCRITES THEY ARE For instance, Pradeep Mehta, secretary-general of the center for international trade, economics and the environment of CUTS International, an independent research institute based in India, said that if Americans slimmed down to the weight of middle-class Indians, ''many hungry people in sub-Saharan Africa would find food on their plates.'' [s] He added,... that the money spent in the United States on liposuction to get rid of fat from excess consumption could be funneled to feed famine victims, whose anger has taken them to the streets on many continents. [s]

BUSH HAS NEVER GOT IT RIGHT, HE NEVER WILL HE, IS INCAPABLE. Mehta's comments may sound like the macroeconomic equivalent of ''so's your old man,'' but they reflect genuine outrage - and ballooning criticism - toward the United States in particular, over recent remarks by President Bush. [s]

THE SENATE TO THE RESCUE...RUN FOR COVER... The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to approve a five-year, $307 billion farm bill, sending it to President Bush for what is expected to be his futile veto.[n]

THE AMERICAN MIDDLE CLASS IS LOSING ITS STANDARD OF LIVING, WHEN THEY FIND OUT THEY WILL BE REALLY PISSED AND MAY JUST GET OFF THE COUCH AND VOTE EVERYBODY OUT OF OFFICE. With food prices soaring, it takes some gall to force Americans to pay billions of dollars to millionaire agribusinesses. Yet that's what the latest farm bill would do.[m]

GOOD FOOD PRICES GOING UP, WE WILL EAT MORE BAD FOOD AND GET FATTER We don't have to remind the people of the Seacoast and Lakes Regions of New Hampshire and southern Maine of the soaring cost of food. They see it each day they go to the market. Democrats running for election and re-election to Congress are trying to get consumers to swallow the meal that they are the ones who are trying to reduce food prices. How, by tossing subsidies at corn growers who sell their crops for the manufacture of ethanol, increasing the cost of what is sold in stores and what is grown for animal feed?[b]

FOOD BILL TO BE EATEN UP BY WHITE HOUSE A year in the making, the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 is on its way to the White House, ballyhooed by most, booed by a few.[th]

CONGRESS CAN OVERRIDE, BUT THEY HAVE BEEN BOUGHT AND PAID FOR The bill passed by wide margins -- 318-106 in the U.S. House on Wednesday, followed Thursday by a Senate confirmation of 81-15. As a result, Senate Ag Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is confident he has the votes to override an Oval Office veto, should President Bush carry out his threat to rebuff what he has labeled as "bloated, earmark-laden" legislation. Harkin said he hopes it will not come to that.[th]

THE MIDDLE CLASS IS DYING AND FARM INCOME UP 56%, UNDER THE REPUBLICANS Since the last farm bill was enacted in 2002, the five crops that receive the lion's share of farm subsidies have also enjoyed massive price increases: cotton (105 percent price increase), soybeans (164 percent), corn (169 percent), wheat (256 percent) and rice (281 percent). For consumers, these price increases have caused financial pain domestically and near-riots abroad. For farmers, it's a sunnier story: Total net farm income has leaped 56 percent in just two years, and helped bring the average farm household's income to a record $89,434, and its net worth to $838,875.[m]

WHAT A DUMB POLICY During this crop-price boom, continuing to subsidize farmers makes as much sense as paying Apple to make another generation of iPods. [m]

IF AT FIRST YOU DO NOT SUCCEED , TRY ,TRY AGAIN Yet instead of cutting, Congress' answer is to harvest even more farm subsidies. The latest version would increase payment rates for more than a dozen crops and increase conservation subsidies. Although the same farmers already receive massive annual subsidies, plus taxpayer-funded crop insurance, Congress would also layer a new permanent disaster aid program. Expect Congress to declare an emergency any week that it rains - or doesn't rain.[m]

BUSH LOOKING AT CONDIMENTS, HARKIN THE FULL MENU "To date, (Bush) has focused on a handful of elements in this vast bill that he disagrees with," Harkin said after the Senate vote. "I urge him to look at the bill as a whole, and to see the many critical investments and reforms in this bill that have won support from both parties, from every region of the country and from rural and urban members of Congress alike."[th]

HARKIN BROUGHT EVERYBODY TO THE DINNER TABLE Harkin said he began nearly a year ago by going to each Ag Committee member to determine what that lawmaker wanted included. By the time the initial bill got to committee for consideration, it took less than two days to get to unanimous approval.[th]

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ARE DUCKING THIS ISSUE, THEY KNOW ITS WRONG BUT TOOK TOO MUCH FARM LOBBY MONEY With the exception of Rep. Ron Kind,D-Wis., all members of the tri-state congressional delegation who were present for the vote supported the bill. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, with the Senate's other presidential candidates, New York Democrat Hillary Clinton and Arizona Republican John McCain, were not on hand.[th] Kind has consistently criticized the effort's shortcomings in subsidy reform.[th]

NEXT TO THE CORN SUBSIDY JUST DOWN THE AISLE FROM THE SOYBEAN LOTTERY, THAT WHERE THE BEEF IS “Where’s the beef?” asked Representative Ron Kind, Democrat of Wisconsin, standing in the House floor next to a poster showing sharp increases in commodity prices — 126 percent for wheat, 57 percent for soybeans, 45 percent for corn. “Where’s the real reform?” he said. [n] The Office of Management and Budget was right - the $35 billion in subsidies and price supports authorized by the bill are not needed. ) Wheat now sells for 87 percent above its five-year average price. Soybeans are up 70 percent; corn 94 percent. As long as Congress keeps its biofuel mandates, prices are not going to recede.[b]

REPUBLICANS SAY AGAIN...BUSH WHO.... The willingness of so many Republicans to break with the White House reflected both the strong support for the bill and a growing alarm among many lawmakers about their election prospects in November. [n] Mr. Bush himself made a similar political calculation in 2002, ultimately deciding to sign the farm bill that year even though he had strongly opposed it. A senior official at the time said the White House had concluded it would be “political suicide” in the midterm elections to veto the bill that year. [n]

THE WORLD IS ON THE VERGE OF FOOD RIOTS AND STARVATION AND WE ARE PAYING MILLIONAIRE FARMERS ...NOT TO GROW... "Commodity prices are through the roof and yet we are still funneling billions of dollars to farm households making up to $2.5 million a year in profit," Kind said. "My colleagues and the president should reject these sham reforms, and demand a farm bill that helps only the family farmers who need it and is worth the confidence of the American taxpayer."[th] Both Harkin and Iowa's senior senator, Republican Chuck Grassley, who worked on the funding as ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, supported greater cuts in subsidy payments throughout the process, but met strong resistance from lawmakers representing sugar-producing areas. Without their support, the bill would not have had the votes needed to get other reforms accomplished.[th]

THE LONGER THE SPEECH THE BIGGER THE LIE... In a lengthy statement explaining the bill's provisions Grassley delivered on the Senate floor, he said he regretted the bill didn't go far enough in payment limitations and its failure to include a ban on packer ownership of livestock.[th] President Bush called on Congress to end farm subsidies for families earning more than $200,000 annually. Instead, Congress decided that married couples with less than $1.5 million in annual net farm income should be barred from one farm subsidy program - but still allowed to collect from all the rest. This is what passes for reform. [m]

CORPORATE FARMERS EXPLOIT LOOP HOLES...WHODATHUNK... And for the vast majority of farmers and agribusiness that remain eligible for farm subsidies, bigger checks await. Agribusinesses have long exploited loopholes to evade the $150,000 annual limit on marketing loan subsidies, including dividing themselves into dozens of separate legal entities and collecting subsidies for each one.[m]

WHEN WILL YOU GET ANGRY, NOT BEING ABLE TO AFFORD FOOD, GAS IN YOUR CAR OR BOTH.... Food prices are setting records. But the five-year bill increases price supports on almost every crop it deals with (rice and cotton are the exceptions). It brings additional crops like chickpeas under subsidy, and its transfer of more wealth to the wealthy is an outrage. (Farmers, now less than 0.7 percent of the population, are in the top 2 percent of income distribution.)[m]

SMALLER CAPS FOR THE WELL DRESSED FARMER But, noting the $2.5 million adjusted gross income cap on non-farmers will be reduced to a $500,000 cap, Grassley concluded, "I do plan to vote for this bill because the payment limits are better than current law, and the investments we are making in rural America and nutrition are essential."[th]

SUPPORT MEANS THEY GAVE HIM MONEY Harkin said this is the seventh farm bill he's worked on during his tenure in Congress and he has "never seen support from so many groups."[th]

WITH FOOD STAMPS IN THE BILL WE ARE SUPPOSED TO LIKE IT WHEN THE FARMERS RIP OFF OUR COUNTRY....NOT Key to the support is the bill's provisions that include major funding for food stamp and nutrition programs advocated by numerous faith organizations, conservation initiatives and protection of a "safety net" for farmers' income.[th]

WE SHOULD WORRY WHEN ALL THE FARM ORGANIZATIONS SUPPORT THE SAME LEGISLATION The five-year bill enjoys the support of all major farm organizations and Mark Salvador, national policy adviser for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, said his group is no exception.[th] Although the legislation is universally known as the farm bill, it actually directs far more money to feeding the poor than it does to helping farmers — about $209 billion for nutrition programs like food stamps, according to the Congressional Budget Office, compared with $35 billion for agricultural commodity programs. ]n]

10 BILLION IN NEW SPENDING TO A COUPLE OF DIRT FARMERS.... Overall, the farm bill is officially listed as adding $10 billion in new spending over the decade. But that ignores the blatant gimmicks - such as shifting costs just outside the 10-year window, and unrealistically assuming all increases will suddenly be repealed in four years - that could add more than $10 billion to the cost. Congressional Democrats who loudly denounced budget deficits are now prepared to bypass anti-deficit rules for this bloated bill. [m]

WAIT ITS NOW 25 BILLION...WENT UP ALREADY Thus, farm subsidies will continue costing taxpayers at least $25 billion annually. And for what purpose? Subsidies don't solve farmer poverty because they go to profitable agribusinesses. They don't preserve family farms because agribusinesses use their subsidies to buy them out. They are no longer designed to stabilize crop prices. [m]

HERES THE REAL STORY, CORPORATE AMERICA NEEDS FUEL MORE THAT WE NEED FOOD...REALLY! What Congressmen are in your wallet.....[trb] Nor do they promote cheap food, as ethanol policies are raising prices steeply. These programs lack any coherent rationale. Instead, they cost billions in taxes and higher supermarket prices. They harm the environment by encouraging over-planting. By undermining America's trade negotiations, subsidies raise consumer prices and restrict U.S. exports. Cotton subsidies undercut impoverished African farmers desperately trying to make a living. They contribute to obesity and rising health care costs by subsidizing corn and soy (from which sugars and fats are derived) rather than healthier fruits and vegetables.[m] Instead of blaming India and other developing nations for the rise in food prices, Americans should rethink their energy policy - and go on a diet. [s]at has been the response, basically, of a growing number of politicians, economists and academics in Europe, Asia and Africa, who are angry at statements by top U.S. officials that the rising prosperity in India and China is to blame for food inflation. [s] In her speech, Ms. Pelosi praised the bill and said the increase on food stamps alone was reason to support it. She said that while more change would be needed, the bill made important improvements to farm policy. [n] Yea... like not ripping us off.[trb] “With this legislation we will help families facing high food prices,” she said. [n] In Congress, one hand washes the other. There’s a $10 billion increase in food stamp authorizations and big increases for conservation programs (which account for most of the $298 billion authorized). That gets the urban members and much of the environmental lobby on board.[b] It’s a shame Obama has been mostly silent about this monstrosity of old politics[b] "This is a good bill," Salvador said. "We need to help people in this country eat; at the same time, we're glad to have a safety net."[th] Debbie cakes for the people and b steak for the farmers.[trb] Farm subsidies don't produce food, but they do produce votes. Despite its economic incoherence, the farm agreement is overwhelmingly popular in a Congress that has mastered the art of distributing tax dollars to favored industries. Although Bush has pledged to veto the farm bill, Congress has stubbornly pledged to override the veto. [m] Is it any wonder why Washington is so unpopular these days? [m]

LOOK INTO A MIRROR AND SAY SLOWLY, I AM MAD AS HELL AND I AM NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE... NOW GO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT... The public will never insist on any new sort of politics that Barack Obama keeps talking about without constant spotlighting of the flaws of the old politics. (Of course, it would have helped if Bush had vetoed the 2002 farm bill.)[b]

Posted here by Terry Bankert ... (If you like this article please forward to your friends, if not just keep it to yourself.)
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[N] The New York Times [th] TH online[m]
[m] Mercury News
[b] The Boston Herald
[s] Salt Lake Tribune

[TRB]\ Comments of Terry Bankert to include CAP headlines. 55922/14000

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