Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

January 31, 2014

Farm bill needs a veto

In two recent speeches, his Dec. 4 oration on income inequality and his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama proclaimed his commitment to fairness and equal opportunity. In the former address, he called inequality “the defining challenge of our time”; in the latter, he vowed to use executive action to meet it. So we hope Mr. Obama will pick up the phone, call Congress — and tell them he’s preparing his veto pen for the 2014 farm bill. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that this legislative grotesquerie gives to the rich and takes from the poor.

Tipping the financial scales at $956 billion over 10 years, or just over $1 billion per page, the hideously complex bill is supposedly a compromise that reforms crop subsidy programs. To be sure, it eliminates a program that gave billions each year in “direct payments” to farmers regardless of individual need or economic conditions, and it incentivizes participation in soil conservation programs.

But what the bill takes from the ag lobby with one hand, it largely gives back with the other.

Of $40.8 billion in projected savings (over 10 years) from eliminating direct payments, the bill restores $27.2 billion via enhanced crop insurance subsidies and a new program that “insures” against adverse price movements. Supposedly necessary to secure the nation’s food supply at a time of record farm income and epidemic obesity, this federal largess flows almost regardless of how much money its recipients already have. People making up to $900,000 per year in adjusted gross income can qualify for payments. The total commodity-program take for any individual “actively engaged” in farming is capped at $125,000 — or 2 1/2 times the national median household income. But this “limit” is mostly phony. “Actively engaged” has applied to many an absentee investor in the past; Congress did not deign to refine this plastic criterion. It asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to do so through the regulatory process, which farm interests hugely influence.

Text Only
Opinion
  • Cable guys too slow with Internet upgrade Remember the good-old 1990s, when you could make a pot of coffee while waiting for the screeching dial-up modem to connect to the Internet at a leisurely 9.6 kilobits per second? Two decades later, the average American household's connection is 1,000

    April 16, 2014

  • A May Day fable SPRINGFIELD -- Growing up during the Cold War, May Day always was a bit ominous. On the evening news, we'd watch tanks, missiles and soldiers march by the reviewing stands in Moscow, Beijing and Havana where stone-faced Communist leaders would look

    April 16, 2014

  • Display it proudly Editor: Drive past the demolition site of the old Good Samaritan Hospital on North 12th Street in Mt. Vernon and you will see the Stars and Stripes proudly flying from the flag pole. The hospital has been reduced to a pile of debris, but Old Glory st

    April 16, 2014

  • Got raw milk ... and salmonella? A refresher course in the work of Louis Pasteur should be mandatory for advocates of so-called raw milk. For anyone who missed fourth-grade science, Pasteur discovered that heating milk for a very brief time killed E. coli, salmonella, listeria, camp

    April 16, 2014

  • Heartburn Tens of millions of Americans have been affected by the theft of their personal information in the digital age. In a recent major data breach at Target stores, numbers and names were taken from about 40 million customers, and many millions more suffe

    April 15, 2014

  • Hitting home I received an article today with a suggestion to use it in a column. This one really hit home to me because it was about the outrageous price increases in diabetic testing devices and supplies. I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes several years ago.

    April 15, 2014

  • The cost of care This was a breakthrough week for health-care transparency. For the first time, the Obama administration released doctor-specific information about Medicare payments, starting with 2012 data on $64 billion worth of billings. Journalists immediately se

    April 15, 2014

  • Obama could stand to be a little more like LBJ On Thursday, President Barack Obama joined other dignitaries at a civil rights summit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson's signature accomplishment as president -- passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And in a nod to

    April 12, 2014

  • Human performers, not animals Editor: The circus is coming to town with their circus animal slaves. Like other circuses who torture animals, the circus is very close to being shut down for good. Everything takes baby steps. Why should I waste my time with words when anyone can vi

    April 12, 2014

  • HYPE, HYPE, HOORAY! How long do you think you'd continue to buy this newspaper if every single story on every single page for the last three weeks was about a missing airplane? Or a hurricane? Or a baby down a well? Or any other single topic? No sports, no weddings, no

    April 12, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks