Posted by | November 8, 2010 14:36 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

I’m an optimist by nature (hence my under-predicting Republican gains by about 20 seats in the House).  So I’ve begun to think about where good policy could come from a Republican-controlled House.  Farm policy is the most obvious target.

“It seems to go without saying that all the candidates who are running on downsizing the government are going to have to look to areas like farm programs to make good on their promises,” said one agricultural economist at a major land-grant university.

“When these new members begin looking at the $5 billion a year in direct payments that are flowing to farmers who are receiving record prices for their crops, the $7 billion flowing to crop insurance companies over the last two years and the $2.6 billion flowing to cotton farmers, those will make inviting targets.”

Farm subsidies are pork in their plainest form.  They serve little ostensible policy purpose beyond the reward of a powerful constituency.  In a time of record deficits and the search for targets for reduced spending, they make an appealing target. Especially when you read something like this:

Consider the Taco Bell steak quesadilla, with cheddar, pepper jack, mozzarella and a creamy sauce. “The item used an average of eight times more cheese than other items on their menu,” the Agriculture Department said in a report, extolling Dairy Management’s work — without mentioning that the quesadilla has more than three-quarters of the daily recommended level of saturated fat and sodium.

Dairy Management, whose annual budget approaches $140 million, is largely financed by a government-mandated fee on the dairy industry. But it also receives several million dollars a year from the Agriculture Department, which appoints some of its board members, approves its marketing campaigns and major contracts and periodically reports to Congress on its work.

I believe in a role for government, but promoting Taco Bell steak quesadillas is too much even for me.

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Copyright 2010 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.