Spending Big at the Ag Department
Last weekend I wrote about legislation sponsored by House Republican “Buck” McKeon (R.Ca) who is the head of the powerful Armed Services Committee. Buck had proposed a spending plan for the military that maintains spending on guns and ammo at the highest level in the nation's history. The proposal's spending levels are above those set by congress in last year’s Budget Control Act. I gave the Republicans gas for coming up with such a ludicrous plan. Many readers read concluded that I was just shilling for the Democrats. In an effort at that “fair and balanced” thing, l will hack up a Democratic proposal on spending this weekend.
Senate Democrat, Debbie Stabenow (MI), head of the powerful Agricultural Committee, has come forward with her plan for spending by the US Agricultural Department (USDA). The legislation (S.3240) would put spending by the good old USAD at $969 billion over the next nine years.
A budget hasn't been approved in 1,100 days, so it’s difficult to compare the proposed spending with what has happened the past few years at the USDA. The last time a budget was seriously considered, the 2013-22 spending was $997b. So it looks like cuts of $23b have been proposed this time around. But that is just for show. The bill has supplementary provisions for “credit assistance,” “education,” and “trade promotion”. The add ons come to an extra $28B over the next decade, so what has been offered up by Senator Stabenow has no cuts at all.
It’s not that I want to cut the USDA budget to the bone. After all, they are doing such a good job of protecting the country’s food supply, right? Well, actually, they aren’t doing so well at that. The CDC spells it out:
48 million folks got sick from what they ate last year, 128k ended up in the hospital, 3,000 ended up in the morgue. This holiday weekend some 400k folks will be up puking their guts out, 3,000 will end up in a hospital, and 25 folks won’t make it till Tuesday. So if you’re planning a BBQ to celebrate Memorial Day, watch out for the rancid lamb, the salmonella salad, and the Norovirus burgers.
The real job at the USDA is protecting the farmers. You would think that the unending recession would put those hard working folks in the fields in distress. Actually that is not the case. Farmers have been doing better than the bankers the past four years. Total revenues are up 15%%, net income has risen by 8% ($92b). (link)
The real estate crisis has crushed many Americans, but not the farmers. Arable land is at the highest value in history. Prices were up 20% in both 2010 and 2012. In the past ten-years, farm land values have more than doubled:
Senator Stabenow is probably doing what she’s supposed to be doing. As the head of the Senate’s Ag Committee she’s supposed to be sucking up taxpayer money and seeing that it’s spent on the farmers she’s supposed to represent. Her home state, Michigan, is a modest player in agriculture. It’s ranked 22th, but farming is still a success story in the “Mitten.”
In Michigan, 41% of all farmers are getting checks from the USDA. Of those farmers on the dole, the top 10% are getting 71% of the handouts. (Link) No doubt this has helped the good Senator’s fund raising efforts; she’s been around for twelve years.
It being an election year, we will have more than the usual amount of political speeches this Memorial Day. Republicans and Democrats will be out there pushing the “debt/deficit” hot buttons. They will be selling a message of austerity and a return to some level of sanity with deficits. But when you look at what the Reds and Blues actually do when they are back in D.C. drafting legislation, you'll see that that both sides of the aisle are proposing spending on their pet projects. Neither side has any interest in cutting spending. What they will be saying on the stump this weekend will sound nice, but actually they are all lying.
Don’t get too riled up about the spending bills from Buck or Diane. There is not a chance in hell that any of this will pass. We will go another 400 days without a budget. Someday we will pay a price for this.
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