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Members of Congress Receive Useless Subsidies (Apart From Their Salaries)

If there’s one set of government economic interventions that virtually everyone who isn’t planning on running for President agrees is useless and counterproductive, it’s the system of farm subsidies and price supports that benefit large farming conglomerates at the expense of the small business farmers that they are ostensibly supposed to help. So why doesn’t it surprise me that several Congresspersons are large beneficiaries of these programs?

Bachmann, of Minnesota, has spent much of this year agitating against health care reform, whipping up the so-called tea-baggers with stories of death panels and rationed health care. She has called for a revolution against what she sees as Barack Obama’s attempted socialist takeover of America, saying presidential policy is “reaching down the throat and ripping the guts out of freedom.”

But data compiled from federal records by Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit watchdog that tracks the recipients of agricultural subsidies in the United States, shows that Bachmann has an inner Marxist that is perfectly at ease with profiting from taxpayer largesse. According to the organization’s records, Bachmann’s family farm received $251,973 in federal subsidies between 1995 and 2006. The farm had been managed by Bachmann’s recently deceased father-in-law and took in roughly $20,000 in 2006 and $28,000 in 2005, with the bulk of the subsidies going to dairy and corn. Both dairy and corn are heavily subsidized—or “socialized”—businesses in America (in 2005 alone, Washington spent $4.8 billion propping up corn prices) and are subject to strict government price controls.

[...]

Chuck Grassley, the longtime Republican senator from Iowa who warns his constituents of Obama’s “trend toward socialism,” has seen his family collect $1 million in federal handouts over an 11-year period, with Grassley’s son receiving $699,248 and the senator himself pocketing $238,974. Even Grassley’s grandson is learning to ride through life on training wheels, snagging $5,964 in 2005 and $2,363 in 2006. In the Grassley family they learn early how to enjoy other people’s money.

[...]

Then there’s Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., whose family has been on the government take for at least the past 11 years, pocketing some $500,000.

There are several more examples on the Democratic side. The article itself is unfortunate in that I think it’s hell-bent on pointing out hypocrisy, which is beside the point. The real issue here is that there are some pretty big problems with members of the legislature taking advantage of subsidies and price controls like this. Especially subsidies and price controls that are as grossly inefficient, counterproductive, and anticompetitive as the ones in our agricultural system.

(link via John Cole)

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About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp writes about pretty much everything under the sun, including politics, art, religion, philosophy, sports, music, culture, and science.

Comments

  1. Steve says:

    I admittedly did not read the article, but the real question is not whether they accepted the subsidies, but how they voted. It is not hypocritical to collect social security if you believe it is a flawed system so long as you are voting to change it in the meantime. Likewise, it is not hypocritical to collect farm subsisidies under the system as it exists so long as you are voting against them.

    It would be like saying Republicans are hypocritcal because they pay their taxes while arguing that they should be lower.

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  2. sam says:

    Likewise, it is not hypocritical to collect farm subsisidies under the system as it exists so long as you are voting against them.

    According to this story, then, Michelle should be wearing a sweater with a large scarlet H on it:

    Michelle Bachmann Did Vote to Protect Farm Subsidies for Wealthy Recipients

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  3. Pete says:

    Big deal. So this is news? C’mon Knapp, DC is rife with this kind of hypocrisy. So is state and local govt. How pure are you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    I suspect that you’ve just scratched the surface on the useless subsidies given to Congressmen. Staffs, offices, and travel expenses are all extra-Constitutional. The Constitution just provides that they’ll receive compensation for their services, not that they’ll be able to live like Renaissance princes.

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  5. Brian Knapp says:

    It is not hypocritical to collect social security if you believe it is a flawed system so long as you are voting to change it in the meantime.

    This might be the worst measure of ethics ever. If opponents of social security are so because of practical fiscal practice, then I might perhaps agree. However, if being anti-social security is based by principle or ideal in any way, shape, or form, then it is BY DEFINITION hypocrisy.

    Decrying “Socialism!! Bad!!” at social security, medicare or corporate subsidies precludes one from participating in the aforementioned.

    Only in such cases where it is impossible to avoid participation (if one is opposed to publicly funded roads for example) is this sort of reasoning acceptable.

    Last time I checked though, persons eligible for social security don’t have to pocket it.

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  6. Brian Knapp says:

    Big deal. So this is news? C’mon Knapp, DC is rife with this kind of hypocrisy. So is state and local govt. How pure are you?

    I can personally verify that Alex does not accept farm subsidies.

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  7. Pete says:

    Last time I checked though, persons eligible for social security don’t have to pocket it.

    Wouldn’t it be less hypocritical if people refused to pay into it versus volunteering to not accept that which one has been coerced into paying all one’s working life?

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  8. Steve says:

    Decrying “Socialism!! Bad!!” at social security, medicare or corporate subsidies precludes one from participating in the aforementioned.

    Only in such cases where it is impossible to avoid participation (if one is opposed to publicly funded roads for example) is this sort of reasoning acceptable.

    But you ARE forced to particpate in social secutiry. You are compelled to pay in. So it would be quite unfair (especially if you are not inordiantely wealthy) not to collect even if you do not believe in the system in principle.

    Now, if you could opt out of paying INTO social security, then I agree with you. Until then, I disagree that it would be hypocritical to collect on something you unwillingly paid into.

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  9. Alex Knapp says:

    Guys, the issue here isn’t hypocrisy–it’s conflict of interest.

    Dave,

    Staffs, offices, and travel expenses are all extra-Constitutional.

    As long as these expenses are reasonable I don’t really have a problem with it. Being a legislator for a country of 300 million people is going to require some staff.

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  10. anjin-san says:

    Well, Bachmann certainly has the best of both worlds here. Her rants about socialism have made her a national figure, meanwhile she has her hand in the cookie jar…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. Brian Knapp says:

    But you ARE forced to particpate in social secutiry. You are compelled to pay in. So it would be quite unfair (especially if you are not inordiantely wealthy) not to collect even if you do not believe in the system in principle.

    Yeah, you know, that’s probably right. I rescind. My shout at hypocrisy is based on a personal experience of being surrounded by (obviously greedy/excessive)people in the top 5-10 percentile of wealth lamenting the socialist thievery that is social security and medicare, but each and every one happily cashes their social security checks without a second thought (they are also the same people who invite government regulation to benefit the monopolies of the corporations they work for).

    But, when you do take this to its logical conclusion, for those whose protest is not a viable option, it becomes apparent that “participation” is not an option.

    Chalk this up to a case of undifferentiated subjective emotional attachment to experience, rather than objective sensory anecdotal data collection.

    But then, is hypocrisy ever a declaration of objective rationalism?

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  12. [...] farm subsidies are the real problem: Michele Bachmann isn’t the only hypocrite, says Alex Knapp in Outside the Beltway. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has also warned about Obama’s “trend toward [...]

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  13. steve says:

    On my dinky little blog we have a running bit about reviving the old claymation Celebrity Death matches. Our current favorite match would be between Bachmann and Maxine Waters. Sort of embarrassing to have those two in our Congress.

    Steve

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