There is an old joke about the Department of Agriculture: One day, a bureaucrat in that arcane agency noticed a co-worker with a long face. He inquired, “Why the long face?” His co-worker said, “My farmer died.”
It’s a bad joke, but the joke is on us.
In the 1900s, more than half of the population of the U.S. was involved in farming. Today, it’s less than two percent. Today, there are more people working in technology related to the computer industry than farming.
Should we, therefore, create a U.S. Department of Technology and Computers, to pay people for developing certain computer programs and not others? Should we guarantee those who have computer-related businesses a profit regardless of whether their products are needed at all? Should we guarantee these owners a certain income, whether or not their products fail or succeed? Should we guarantee a certain price for their products by limiting the number of programs or computers that are produced? Should the government buy computers for all people who are able-bodied but who refuse to work at all?
Any intelligent taxpayer would say, “That’s nuts!”
However, that is what has and is now happening with the farm bill, which comes up for reauthorization every five years, now before Congress. Just substitute food, family farm or agribusiness for the word “computers,” and you will begin to get the picture.
Today, the USDA has 17 different departments, 18 different offices and thousands of government employees that are expected to dole out upward of a trillion dollars over the next 10 years to some of our country’s largest businesses, wealthiest Americans and freeloaders. It’s a prime example of pork-barrel spending, crony capitalism and welfare run amok – the very thing Trump was elected to eliminate.
How does this needless drain on taxpayers keep happening? Largely because of what I would call toy (not fake) news. The media feed us a steady stream of needless dribble instead of the critical issues before us. The emotional, tabloid-style newscast is what gets the ratings. Therefore, the public is largely uninformed. If taxpayers were wise to this reverse Robin Hood, they would be screaming bloody murder, and it would have been stopped long ago.
The largest group of recipients of this government largess are the freeloaders – those on what is commonly called food stamps, which now come on plastic cards to avoid any embarrassment at the checkout stand. This is the one area that has some slight reforms in the House version, and it has received the lion’s share of attention.
Currently, the federal government requires 20 hours of work for able-bodied food-stamp recipients, but this is a joke. A third of the states waive the requirements. In addition, some states get around this by manipulating unemployment data so fewer and fewer people are required to work. It’s what you might call welfare for government workers.
The House bill tightens those work requirements to cover all able-bodied adults between the ages of 18-59. If they can’t get work, they must participate in a job-training program 20 hours a week. Twenty hours a week! This has caused the poverty pimps in Washington to scream bloody murder. Meanwhile, the hardworking taxpayers who are paying for this nonsense are expected to put in 40 hours or more on the job.
This would be the hardest of hard sells if most people were simply paying attention. Then, too, the bill exempts pregnant women and those caring for children under the age of six. Again, hard to shed a tear for even this group. I know many women who work until the day their children are born (I was one of them) without complaint and many others with young children who find a way to support themselves while their children are young without relying on taxpayers. Also, many Americans work way past the age of 59 to support themselves. The key word in the bill is “able-bodied.”
The federal government’s primary job is to protect the American people. Therefore, it should stick to making sure our food supply is safe and get out of the business of picking winners and losers in farming and subsidizing both the laziest and the wealthiest among us.
The infamous Willie Sutton once was asked, “Why do you rob banks?” His answer, “That’s where the money is.” So why do you think there is so much bipartisan support in Congress for the farm bill when it comes up for reauthorization every five years? That’s where the money is for so many of their well-connected campaign contributors.