Behold, the vicious cycle of “temporary” federal subsidies that just won’t die

posted at 12:41 pm on June 3, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

Among the many pitfalls of zealous big-government spending is the glaring problem that any organized special interest, once thrown any kind of bone, is dependably reluctant to give it up. The many one-time deals, quick fixes, and temporary band-aids enacted by the federal government over the years have a nasty habit of sticking around long past their ostensibly intended expiration date, and untangling the resulting web becomes an increasingly daunting task as every individual regulation and program receives less and less scrutiny.

The Washington Post has lately been pretty consistent about railing on the absolute hot mess of waste, fraud, and free-market distortion that is the federal government’s involvement in the agriculture industry, and they have another piece out that details an apt example of just such a stubbornly lingering and pork-heavy program — and there are plenty more where that came from.

The money, it turns out, comes from one cockeyed farm-aid program that was supposed to end in 2003. It didn’t: Congress kept it alive and now hands out almost $5 billion a year using oddly relaxed rules. …

The program is one of Washington’s walking dead — “temporary” giveaway programs that have staggered on years beyond their intended expiration dates. Letting them live is an old and expensive congressional habit, still unbroken in this age of austerity. …

“It’s something that was supposed to die [that] has gotten an extra decade of life. So, do the math,” said Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group, which has fought these subsidies for years. In all, the program has cost at least $46 billion more than it was supposed to. …

Recent analyses of the program have found that it subsidizes some people who aren’t really farming: the idle, the urban, and occasionally the dead.

The idle include recipients at 2,300 farms that haven’t grown crops at all for the past five years, and 622 that haven’t grown anything for 10, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Read on for the thrilling saga of how this particular program managed to cling to life and some members of the current Congress’s attempts to finally dismantle it, but the underlying gist of the story is that the direct taxpayer-to-government-to-farmer subsidization cycle has been going strong in marathon mode ever since farm subsidies really cottoned on around the 1930s. Stuff like this might might feel small in the entire scheme of the federal budget, but added up over the years, this kind of thing is costing us a fortune.


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The Federal Government: How to reap without sowing.

Steve Z on June 3, 2013 at 12:54 PM

Who cares? It’s not like it’s our money anyways… /congress-critter

geojed on June 3, 2013 at 12:55 PM

He followed me around as I did exploratory geotech drilling on over 700 acres near Baytown, TX.

Said he used to lease the land and farm it until a Saudi bought it and stopped him from leasing it any longer.

He had been told the new owner made more money getting payment NOT to farm it than to allow it.

That was probably ten years ago.

DanMan on June 3, 2013 at 12:56 PM

At this point… what difference does it make?

LoganSix on June 3, 2013 at 12:58 PM

So, WAPO giving any air time to Pigford?

We need a constitutional amendment that bans cash transfers to individuals/companies/groups.

The government could still get around it by hiring/buying from groups at inflated prices, but it would help trim back Leviathan.

Of course this is why we have a $4T budget and supposedly have cut to the bone when we reduced the rate of growth of the budget by a trivial amount in the sequester.

18-1 on June 3, 2013 at 12:59 PM

In all, the program has cost at least $46 billion more than it was supposed to. …

Holy cow! This is the kind of thing that gets me riled. This kind of waste has to stop. This is why it is our duty to pay only the minimum taxes required by law. All that sweet talk about “paying your fair share” flies out the window in the face of this kind of waste. Bite me, libs.

SailorMark on June 3, 2013 at 1:03 PM

This is an important story. Why doesn’t Hot Air have any real reporting on important issues like this? Surely, TownHall can afford to pay for one staff reporter.

Erika is obviously passionate about government-waste. But she phones it in with this post. It would be much more helpful to have her reporting than rehashing WaPo drivel.

Capitalist Hog on June 3, 2013 at 1:04 PM

In previous threads, I have taken you to task for thinking that free market purchasing of any fungible product is a subsidy. Now, you are finally moving to the right track and definition of subsidy. As far as I am concerned, do away with ALL subsidies for any industry (photocell and fan for instance).
I have only taken one subsidy in my life, and I didn’t want it, but the only place I could sell wool, set me up for a subsidy against my specific instructions. I got rid of my sheep. Subsidies went against my ethics and I found out you can’t raise sheep with coyotes around. Nobody needs subsidies, particularly coen farmers in Iowa.

Old Country Boy on June 3, 2013 at 1:04 PM

The Washington Post has lately been pretty consistent about railing on the absolute hot mess of waste, fraud, and free-market distortion that is the federal government’s involvement in the agriculture industry

That doesn’t qualify as a “hot mess” unless you’re into scatological porn.

Fenris on June 3, 2013 at 1:05 PM

The Federal Government: How to reap without sowing.

Steve Z on June 3, 2013 at 12:54 PM

Must be your spell check. This should read “”How to rape without sowing.” Same letters, different wordl

Old Country Boy on June 3, 2013 at 1:07 PM

Speaking of subsidies…..How about that Bush subsidy for China ongoing?….

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/03/world/middleeast/china-reaps-biggest-benefits-of-iraq-oil-boom.html?_r=0

BAGHDAD — Since the American-led invasion of 2003, Iraq has become one of the world’s top oil producers, and China is now its biggest customer.

“The Chinese are the biggest beneficiary of this post-Saddam oil boom in Iraq,” said Denise Natali, a Middle East expert at the National Defense University in Washington. “They need energy, and they want to get into the market.”

Before the invasion, Iraq’s oil industry was sputtering, largely walled off from world markets by international sanctions against the government of Saddam Hussein, so his overthrow always carried the promise of renewed access to the country’s immense reserves. Chinese state-owned companies seized the opportunity, pouring more than $2 billion a year and hundreds of workers into Iraq, and just as important, showing a willingness to play by the new Iraqi government’s rules and to accept lower profits to win contracts.

“We lost out,” said Michael Makovsky, a former Defense Department official in the Bush administration who worked on Iraq oil policy. “The Chinese had nothing to do with the war, but from an economic standpoint they are benefiting from it, and our Fifth Fleet and air forces are helping to assure their supply.”

American blood and treasure, for the benefit of the CHINESE COMMUNISTS.

Beautiful.

What next?

PappyD61 on June 3, 2013 at 1:08 PM

5 Billion? Peanuts

right2bright on June 3, 2013 at 1:09 PM

Ethanol mandates & subsidies are poster children for virtually everything that is wrong in government. Not only do they not succeed in their primary missions, but they actually make things worse based on the original goals!

Ethanol Mandates – the poster child for zombie government programs that never die – regardless of the damage they do

imperfectamerica on June 3, 2013 at 1:09 PM

What’s 5 billion compared to this?

right2bright on June 3, 2013 at 1:11 PM

SailorMark on June 3, 2013 at 1:03 PM

Come on you have to pay your fair share. If you don’t they will borrow or print more money. Hmmmm, come to think of it they borrow and print anyway so go ahead and get your money back anyway you can.

chemman on June 3, 2013 at 1:22 PM

When seconds count, the police are just minutes away: http://clashdaily.com/2013/06/the-calling-911-myth-police-protection-versus-personal-protection/

davidk on June 3, 2013 at 1:23 PM

American blood and treasure, for the benefit of the CHINESE COMMUNISTS.

Beautiful.

What next?

PappyD61 on June 3, 2013 at 1:08 PM

Don’t forget the Islamists.

chemman on June 3, 2013 at 1:24 PM

American blood and treasure, for the benefit of the CHINESE COMMUNISTS.

Beautiful.

What next?

PappyD61 on June 3, 2013 at 1:08 PM

I believe the promise was for free enterprise. US based companies were asleep at the switch. The Chinese seized the opportunity.

Danno on June 3, 2013 at 1:25 PM

So WaPo actually called this the “age of austerity”?

They must be referring to the newsprint business.

WryTrvllr on June 3, 2013 at 1:40 PM

I asked for it and a government funded “planning and development corporation” is paying half the costs of the new retaining wall for my front yard and to have the bricks in my front porch pointed. There was no means testing for me to get this money.

Every penny that goes to “planning and development corporations” should be cut from the federal budget. People shouldn’t get government money for fixing up their own houses.

thuja on June 3, 2013 at 1:43 PM

American blood and treasure, for the benefit of the CHINESE COMMUNISTS.

Beautiful.

What next?

PappyD61 on June 3, 2013 at 1:08 PM

Wait, I was told by the news people that we were there for the oil.

LoganSix on June 3, 2013 at 1:44 PM

There’s 1300 of these entitlement programs for federal workers filled with friends and family of politicians by the hundreds of thousands and we’ll never hear a word about not funding them because it employs both parties.

mixplix on June 3, 2013 at 2:22 PM

I asked for it and a government funded “planning and development corporation” is paying half the costs of the new retaining wall for my front yard and to have the bricks in my front porch pointed. There was no means testing for me to get this money.

Every penny that goes to “planning and development corporations” should be cut from the federal budget. People shouldn’t get government money for fixing up their own houses.

thuja on June 3, 2013 at 1:43 PM

Spare me your outrage.
YOU are a Govt welfare b!tch.
There are probably a LOT of people here on HA who rail at the system & call themselves conservatives, when meanwhile they are more than happy to participate in the orgy for pork.
So in response to your last statement, WHY THE F#CK ARE YOU DOING IT?

Badger40 on June 3, 2013 at 3:55 PM

I asked for it and a government funded “planning and development corporation” is paying half the costs of the new retaining wall for my front yard and to have the bricks in my front porch pointed. There was no means testing for me to get this money.

Every penny that goes to “planning and development corporations” should be cut from the federal budget. People shouldn’t get government money for fixing up their own houses.

thuja on June 3, 2013 at 1:43 PM

Spare me your outrage.
YOU are a Govt welfare b!tch.
There are probably a LOT of people here on HA who rail at the system & call themselves conservatives, when meanwhile they are more than happy to participate in the orgy for pork.
So in response to your last statement, WHY THE FRACK ARE YOU DOING IT?

Badger40 on June 3, 2013 at 3:57 PM

And let me add to that ALL of the people who like to justify getting their various government handouts for all sorts of things.
Now you see, I can somewhat understand this sense of entitlement regarding SS & Medicare.
We all pay the TAX, if we don’t work under the table, for these programs & are promised some sort of benefit by a certain age based on our earnings/payment history.
But I don’t bet on receiving any bcs it is a TAX.
And a very unrealistic Ponzi scheme that is bankrupting our country.

Then you get people like thuja spewing outrageous outrage about $hit like this & I want to PUKE.
I already have to hear my farmer neighbors who identifiy as conservatives b!tch about Bammy this & Bammy that & Democrats blah blah blah.
Yet they are the FIRST wh0res down at the USDA,FSA etc offices to get their farm payments/signups.
The shift of farm payments to crop insurance payments is no different from any other wh0re $$. It’s all subsidized by Uncle Sam.
Unless you are independently wealthy & own all your equipment & land outright, the Federal govt has made it almost impossible to farm competitively without being a wh0re.
And it’s getting that way for those of us involved in ranching, too.

These threads always amaze me at how few comments they generate, when in fact, they are some of the most worrisome stories regarding gross waste of taxpayer dollars.
It’s why I am watching for the last several years remaining virgin prairie along with the most $hitty sandy ‘farm ground’ that used to be in CRP another govt program that actually did have a good purpose) now get plowed up along with ever pathetic rocky a$$ hill knob get a once over from payloaders to remove the rocks just so they can farm the $hit. These crops have huge failure rates!
And guess what? They are collecting more on the insurance WHEN they fail! They get more that way!
OMG I just want to scream about this $hit.
And no one is listening!

Badger40 on June 3, 2013 at 4:06 PM

In fact regarding failure rates of crops, I am watching local farmers seed poorly on PURPOSE.
Crop fails, they collect.
See, the crop’s going to fail bcs it’s on bad land for farming that crop AND they save some input cost by seeding LESS.

WIN WIN!

Doesn’t this pi$$ you off yet?

Badger40 on June 3, 2013 at 4:14 PM

Badger40 on June 3, 2013 at 4:14 PM

A nation that mistreats it’s farmers or it’s farm land is not long for this world.

That’s how Rome began it’s fall… with the farm acts. We will be no different if these shenanigans continue.

Chaz706 on June 3, 2013 at 8:39 PM

Doesn’t this pi$$ you off yet?

Badger40 on June 3, 2013 at 4:14 PM

…oh…about 30 years ago!

KOOLAID2 on June 3, 2013 at 11:05 PM