Your tax dollars at work: helping farmers

July 13, 2013

Some interesting thoughts about farm subsidies, via MR, in a piece from the WaPo Wonkblog. Some highlights:   

This week, House Republicans passed a rather unusual farm bill. … Most outside conservative groups were aghast at the crop insurance and commodity supports, which will cost taxpayers some $195 billion over 10 years. Yet House Republicans actually made the farm aid more generous, [including] new protections for sugar production.

This raises a question: Why are lawmakers so willing to vote for farm subsidies — even lawmakers who usually oppose government spending? After all, only a small fraction of the U.S. population even farms anymore.

See also this one from The Economist. None of this is unique to the US: most countries do the same thing.

But why? Two common hypotheses (conjecture, not fact): (i) A focused interest group like farmers will change their vote over this, but for others it’s a small thing and doesn’t affect their votes. (ii) Voting districts overweight rural areas. There are fewer people in Iowa and the two Dakotas together than in NYC, yet they get six senators. Is it the same in other countries?


2 Responses to “Your tax dollars at work: helping farmers”

  1. David Backus Says:

    Oh, I forgot: Argentina does the reverse: keeps prices low on agricultural products (cheap food for their urban supporters) and taxes farmers.

  2. J.St.Clair Says:

    very good questions

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