Harvest of disgrace

May 30, 2008

If you measure the success of a pressure group by its ability to cram lousy policy through Congress, you might imagine that Big Oil or Wall Street would top the league: they are the lobbies most berated on the campaign trail. You would be wrong. If there were any doubt, the past few days should have confirmed that America’s farmers are the capital’s handout kings.

Consider their latest masterpiece, the 2007 farm bill that Congress this week delivered, several months late, to George Bush. Congress and the farmers have conspired to make an already unjust agricultural policy—a system that has subsidised the “farming” activities of such paupers as David Letterman and David Rockefeller—even worse. Through a complicated and overlapping system of government-sponsored insurance, counter-cyclical assistance, disaster aid and legacy payments tied to nothing, the five-year, $307 billion bill lavishes cash on wealthy farm households, the main restriction on collecting it being a means test that applies to couples making more than $1.5m a year. And even that can be avoided by employing a reasonably competent accountant. Read the rest of the article, and insightful comments, in The Economist

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