Farm subsidies were created in the 1930s as a response to instability caused by floods, droughts, pests and market swings, but Samuelson says this is no longer the case for farmers, whose jobs have been vastly improved and made more efficient and reliable by technological advances. "Government support for agricultural research and food safety can be justified. But direct subsidies to farmers can't," Samuelson writes. He says subsidies qualify as "low hanging fruit" in cutting spending, but "what's instructive is that no one is doing it."
Instead, he writes, Congress plays a "shell game" of retiring subsidies when they aren't effective and replacing them with similar programs under different names. "In Congress, ending subsidies is unthinkable," Samuelson writes. The Senate's version of a new Farm Bill would end direct payments to farmers, but the combined cost of direct subsidies and crop insurance would still average about $14 billion annually from 2013 to 2022, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Meanwhile, no one is asking whether or not these programs would be created today or why there's a need to subsidize farmers who are making record profits, Samuelson says.
Farm subsidies are a leading indicator of Washington's larger problem, Samuelson says: "We no longer have the luxury of carrying marginal, ineffectual or wasteful programs. We can no longer afford subsidies for those who don't need them or, at least, don't need so many of them. . . . If we can't eliminate the least valuable spending, then we will be condemned to perpetually large deficits, huge tax increases or indiscriminate cuts in many federal programs, the good as well as the bad." (Read more)