Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Let's subsidize Brazilians. Just to keep it fair.

We started subsidizing cotton farming sometime back in the 1930's. 
By "we", I mean you, me, everyone who pays taxes, and everyone who pays about twice what they should have to pay for t-shirts, sheets, etc. 

Here's the way the system works:  Wealthy individuals claim that they aren't making enough money by growing cotton.  They threaten to withold support for various politicians.  The politicians counter by giving them your money. 

What's really cool about the system is that since 1995, 78% of the 10.66 billion dollars in US subsidies for cotton went to only 10% of the cotton farmers.  Want to guess where these 10% fit on the income spectrum?

This has become a problem for the much-maligned World Trade Organization, the group with the thankless job of preventing these insane traditions from erupting into trade wars.  (Here's what they try to prevent: We subsidize cotton and put tariffs in place to keep out evil, foreign cotton.  African countries want access to our cotton market, but can't compete because of our government giveaway.  Africa retaliates by putting a tariff in place against American automobiles or steel, or whatever.  Next thing you know, it's 1930 all over again.) 

We now have a situation with Brazil.  Brazil wants to buy a lot of our stuff and we want to buy a lot of Brazilian stuff.  The WTO is trying to work it out.  (In an ideal world, of course, anyone restricting you from purchasing whatever from whoever would be told to go have carnal relations with himself....) 

But Brazilian cotton farmers claim that our system is unfair to them.  We apparently give more to our Agri-Business Welfare Queens than Brazil does. 

So what is the Obama administration doing to correct this problem? 

To make it fair, just, and equitable, they are now subsidizing the Brazilian cotton farmers
I repeat:  In order to continue shoveling money to wealthy farmers in the U.S., we are now shoveling money to farmers in Brazil. 

Here's Congressman Jeff Flake on the policy:
“This proposal takes our federal farm subsidy policy from the impractical to the absurd....only in Washington could this pass for logic.”

Even Congressman Barney Frank was able to lift his nose from the trough long enough to make this comment:
“The sensible thing for us to do with the WTO finding – which, unfortunately for American cotton farmers, is clearly correct – would be to reform our own inefficient system of spending millions of dollars a year to subsidize cotton farmers, many of whom are quite wealthy.  Instead, the Obama administration apparently feels compelled to preserve our right to subsidize American cotton farmers by extending that subsidy to Brazilian cotton farmers. People looking for an illustration of the meaning of the phrase, ‘from bad to worse,’ need look no further.”

Why even bother posting this stuff?  It goes on all day, every day.
Well, 3rd-graders can understand that it's a silly policy. 
9th-graders can understand how this hurts the poorest Americans more than any other group.  (Except for, maybe, African cotton farmers.  Go here for details.) 
Hell, even Barney Frank has figured it out.  If people aren't making enough money by growing cotton, it means that too many people are growing cotton.  The same thing once happened to buggy-whip manufacturers, blacksmiths, minstrels, and chimney sweeps.   

And yet we want to trust this D.C. den of thieves with healthcare, manufacturing, shipping, finances, and 40% of our incomes.  So many of us are now involved in the giveaways, the get-backs, and the wealth transfers that it's hard to tell who is paying who - all in the hopes that we'll be in the group that gets back more than they've paid in.  

The cartoon came from here. 

2 comments:

TarrantLibertyGuy said...

I'll be honest, when I read the headline, I thought this pertained to a depilation technique popular amongst women of the late twentieth and early twenty first century involving wax and pain. When I found out it related to cotton subsidies, I'll admit my prurient interests waned... well, all of my interest for a second.

But then I kept on reading and there was some strong statements - one of which was actually a weak statement by Barney Frank. But since he dared to cross the Teleprompter Jesus, I thought that was a mighty big statement in and of itself.

I keep thinking that with some coaching and patience, Jeff Flake could be the next Ron Paul.

Great article!

Nick Rowe said...

I'd gladly subsidize Brazilian bikinis.