Since I want to shut down the Department of Agriculture, that obviously means getting rid of the various subsidy programs that line the pockets of politically connected agri-businesses.
To get an idea of how these corrupt programs operate, I strongly encourage you to read Paul Moreno’s column in National Review. Here’s a sampling of his expose on dairy subsidies, starting with some history.
…Dairy farmers were pioneers in interest-group politics. They have long been adept at using the power of government… The dairy lobby’s first target was margarine… Dairy farmers organized to drive oleo from the market. They claimed that oleo was harmful — manufactured, they charged, from “dead horses, dead hogs, dead dogs, mad dogs, and drowned sheep.” They alleged that an “oleo trust” was not only driving dairy farmers to the wall, but also impairing the marriage market, because “women are no longer a necessary adjunct to the farmer lads to help them create wealth, owing to the oleo-cotton-oil-soap-fat combine.” …The dairymen finally got Congress to enact a two-cent-per-pound excise tax on oleo in 1886. This was the first time that Congress had used its internal taxing power for regulatory purposes, rather than to raise revenue. …Organized dairy’s next target was “filled milk.” This was skim milk to which vegetable oil was added to give the texture of whole milk. Although it provided all of the protein and most of the vitamins of whole milk at a much lower price (and with fewer cardiovascular hazards), the dairy lobby claimed that it was unhealthful. They even resorted to racism, noting that cow’s milk was a pillar of Western civilization, superior to the “oriental” menace of coconut oil. Congress prohibited the shipment of filled milk in interstate commerce in 1923.
But some of those forms of intervention are ancient history, only interesting to those of us who study the corrupt nexus of big government and various sleazy interest groups.
But Paul explains how the current morass of dairy subsidies came about.
Perhaps the most egregious exercise of dairy power was a New York State law of 1933 that declared that milk was a business “affected with a public interest” and allowed the state to set dairy prices. The New York board set 9 cents per quart as the minimum retail price of milk. A Rochester grocer, Leo Nebbia, was prosecuted for selling two quarts of milk and a loaf of bread for 18 cents. Why, in the midst of the distress and privation of the early 1930s, did New York want to raise the price of milk? The idea was that this would raise the income of dairy farmers, who would then purchase more industrial goods, thus stimulating the economy. The Supreme Court accepted this reasoning, giving state governments virtually unlimited power to enact economic regulations. Such counterintuitive trickle-up economic theory helped to turn the 1929 recession into the prolonged Great Depression. Ever since, the federal government has been trying to keep small dairy farmers in business through an elaborate price-support system.
Isn’t that just wonderful. The politicians justified a corrupt form of intervention by citing the crackpot theory of Keynesian economics.
Sort of reminds me of clueless Nancy Pelosi saying the best way to create jobs was paying people not to work.
With every passing day, I realize this famous poster is actually an understatement.