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But why do growers deserve relief at taxpayer expense?
Farm subsidies never made sense. People deserve help because they are poor, not because they grow tobacco, wheat, or sugar.
Even if a vast array of inefficient and contradictory programs —paying farmers to grow and then not to grow crops — made sense during the Great Depression, their time has long gone. Certainly enough taxpayer money has changed hands. Americans shouldn’t have to toss another wad to a few farmers.
Especially ones who produce tobacco. Larry Wooten, president of the North Carolina Farm Bureau, expects to collect $165,000 from the buy-out: “If you erase the value of the quotas, which was the scenario we’d been facing, there will be bankruptcies and havoc.” So what?
If the industry is evil and deserves to be sued and regulated, why only the cigarette makers and sellers? Why shouldn’t tobacco growers be sued and regulated rather than subsidized?
Especially since most of the allotment owners, 326,000 in all, don’t grow anything. Instead, they rent out their quotas to 90,000 active farmers.
AS WITH MOST FARM PROGRAMS, the buyout favors big producers, the very people who least need help. Just ten percent of allotment owners would receive more than two-thirds of the cash. More than 400 of them would collect at least $1 million.
“I’ve waited and sweated for this moment for a very long time,” said John William Carter III, a North Carolina tobacco farmer who expected to collect more than $1 million. It’s like winning the lottery, only one financed by the taxpayers.
Then there are the non-farmers. Homemaker Susan O’Leary, from Exeter New Hampshire, expects to collect $119,000 for a quota from her father’s farm. She admitted to having “a bit of a guilty feeling whenever I receive income from the quota,” but, she added, “I could certainly use the money with a child starting college this year.”
Most farmers are willing to accept the deal as offered. But a few want even more: pay the cash and then transfer the allotments to active growers. Even most tobacco-friendly legislators — about 100 of 435 congressmen — realize that this greedy money grab won’t pass.
As always, Congress wants it every way. It wants to find new sources of revenue, and the cigarette makers represent a tempting source of funds to redistribute.
The administration, which has yet to find a special interest boondoggle that it opposes, flip-flopped to support the buyout. Even worse, the Bush administration is pursuing a Clinton-era $280 billion lawsuit against the industry for fraud and various other alleged offenses.
The states collected a similar amount through the 1998 legal settlement, and, contrary to their promises, used most of their ill-gotten gains to fund general revenue shortfalls. Only two percent of their spending this year will go for tobacco prevention.
CONGRESSMEN SIMULTANEOUSLY WANT to win political support from health advocates by dumping on cigarette makers. Despite the administration’s professed anti-regulatory stance, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson supports expanding the FDA’s power.
But everyone most wants to collect votes by underwriting farmers, even those who produce the tobacco used to make the cigarettes Congress wants to regulate.
No surprise, growers are clamoring for the money: “We drastically need the buyout, and that’s all we care about,” says Daniel Nelson, president of the Forsyth County (North Carolina) Growers Association. Another North Carolina farmer, Jimmy Crews, declared “If I feel like somebody is going to help me on this buyout, he’s going to get my vote.”
“My growers are in dire straits and they need help,” complains Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky). So? Lots of Americans are in distress. Why are tobacco farmers — actually, allotment holders — entitled to seize their neighbors’ hard-earned wealth?
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online