"Politicks are now nothing more than means of rising in the world. With this sole view do men engage in politicks, and their whole conduct proceeds upon it."
Dr. Samuel Johnson (1791)
A few weeks ago with little fanfare and almost negative column inches the US Senate approved an extension of the Farm Bill with minor cuts. Despite the horrendous weather conditions in the plains states (i.e Corn Belt) and the failing harvest, the proposed extension of the Farm Bill will include a lavish provision for crop insurance programs that will protect farmers against both natural disaster and market fluctuations. Recently spin doctors in the media have ominously foretold that the price of diary and meat will to go through the roof in the last quarter of the year.
That hits all of US consumers hard in the wallet as we attempt to buy those government subsidized groceries. It's apparent that the Farm Bill of 2008 needs to be meaningfully overhauled AGAIN. However, when the US House of Representatives finally gets around to drafting their version it is likely to be a near carbon copy of the Senate's bill. The extension is slated to dole out about $96 billion a year to subsidies on “specialty crops” (read: primarily corn and soy) about $50 billion which will be in direct payments to mostly large agribusinesses.
The non profit think tank, Environmental Working Group (EWG), has accumulated an impressive database of information about farm subsidies. Curiously, Nebraska comes in number five on the list of top recipients which is above states like California and Ohio with vastly larger populations. Searching for an answer to this quandary, I tried contacting both U/S Senators from Nebraska, (D)Mike Johanns and (R)Ben Nelson, for an answer to the disproportional allocation of farm subsidies to their state. Neither was available for comment.
An especially alarming statistic is the more than $150 billion a year spent on government sponsored dietary programs and the subsequent medical costs of dealing with arthritis, diabetes and heart disease because of the ubiquity of cheap corn and soy in processed food. The subsidized corn is fed to live stock, used as supplement in refined gasoline (i.e. Ethanol) as well as being omnipresent in the form of high fructose syrup found in a mind-boggling amount of processed foods. Where are the government subsidies for fruit and vegetables? They tout them as being cornerstones to a child's beneficial nutritional plan.
The current governmental plan to deal with the drought is a dubious financial triple dip proposal. The first dip includes the enormous subsidies allocated to the specialty farms. The next dip takes the form of disaster relief insurance like drought. If this weren't enough the triple dip of price hikes will recoup some of the money lost in the aforementioned first and second dip through taxes.
In actuality it's nothing more than a shell game which highlights the collusion between government and big business. At worst it is a form of disinformation which pays lip-service to a glaringly false altruism. When will the smoke and mirror game played on the American public by the insidious marriage between big business and government finally be shut down?